addiction

Living One More Boring Day With Schizophrenia

Well, actually today wasn’t really bad at all. I am starting to get concerned about my sleep habits though. To be on the ball, I need 7 hours or so, but it seems that I am just not getting it, unless I nap. A number of people I know don’t nap, but I love doing it. There truly are times when I shouldn’t nap, but one of the main causes of my napping has to do with just not having anything interesting to do. That’s why I wanted to write this blog. Right there I have touched on a key issue. I need to be interested. I need to be stimulated. Serious problem. Let me explain.

Years ago I fell into a crowd that I would say at best was neutral, but at worst was a complete disaster. It was AA. I went to a lot of meetings. Hundreds. The worst part was that they would have the meetings at night and when you were there, the only thing you could really do was drink coffee. Soon after joining I literally became a coffee addict. I am doing a lot better now, having half of my daily beverages as tea or other stuff. Part of the problem came in after I got back from the meeting and had nothing to do. I would walk a long way, get a comic book at the book store, then go to the arcade. Still on that caffeine high, I would go home, read my comic, then watch TV until late. As long as I was going to meetings though, my landlord was happy. He did have some problems though. One of them was that he would let himself into my room when I left it locked without any notice. I told him he couldn’t do that and he replied, “It’s my house, I can do whatever I want.” This infuriates me even now, especially when a more recent caretaker was in my building and I came home one day to find him leaving my suite and locking my door. I don’t know if I would harm a person for this sort of thing, but it is entirely possible that I will consult my underground book “Revenge” one day to pay some of these people back.

To get back on track, when I was staying up all night (living on social services, not looking for work) my landlord was also my AA sponsor. It was his job to advise me and help me work the steps. I actually have a lot of respect for AA I should say here, but I had some very serious, very risk-filled problems that started with me making friends with people from AA. I love the book though, it is what the program is founded on and has a ton of wisdom. There are few books like it, one of them is “The Richest Man in Babylon” and another is The Holy Bible.

So anyhow, I was in AA for a while when I started going to Casinos. Though I didn’t really have much of a drinking problem, I didn’t want to drink any alcohol, but I saw the Casino as a place to pick up some easy money. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I think where it really started in earnest was when I watched the movie, “Casino” with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci. All the glamour and glitter of gambling seemed so exciting. It seemed like it would be an easy thing for a disciplined person like me to skim off a decent living working and/or hanging out in casinos. The truth was, I would go to one, play for a very long time, and often lose my shirt. That was the way it worked. I knew the odds when you play a game in the casino are only slightly in the house’s favour, but that just made me think all I had to be was a little bit lucky. The truth was that if the odds are slightly towards the house winning, over time the house will take all of your money. And I subjected myself to the torture and degradation of not being able to properly control my own money. At one time a doctor even intervened and had all of my finances taken over by a trustee.

So anyhow, I was talking about my old place and my first sponsor. When I was gambling, he noticed that whenever we got together I would get restless. I would fidget, pace around, smoke a lot. He was wise enough to see that I had accustomed myself to the excitement and adrenalin of playing casino games. What I had to do was to simply stop thinking about the casino or any of the games. This was how I quit smoking once, and how I was able to use a lot of discipline by redirecting thoughts. What I would do was when any thought of gambling came to mind, I would think of something that was more powerful, like a girl I liked naked. I even spent a lot of time journalling and deep in thought regarding money. After a lot of thinking, I realized that money really isn’t important.

As time went on though, even among my family and friends, I have come to be known as someone that likes to make money, likes to get paid for things. I am always willing to give a day’s work for a day’s pay, but I have often had opportunities to make ten days pay for an hour’s work as a writer. Still, that doesn’t mean I will give up working, even for free. But what it does mean is that I am conscious that money is needed in some aspects of a person’s life, and things like strength, courage, ethics, morals, and study are needed at others.

Where the problem comes in is when I decided to start saving and investing my money. I had been told a lot about ETF’s or exchange traded funds, which give a decent return after a year’s time, so I consulted with a friend’s dad who convinced me to buy individual stocks. I bought a few of his suggestions, and some made a little money, some lost a little money. All the while as I did this, I tried to learn a little about day trading. It seemed fairly simple. Look for a bargain, buy some shares, sell when they get a bump.

I made a few trades, and things went extremely well. I did suffer a loss of a few hundred dollars but I pulled out. I wanted to stop. It was extremely time consuming to sit and watch a stock to see if it is going to go up at all, and anxiety causing to see it go down. I realized I was triggering a lot of the same emotions and reactions from my casino days. I talked to a friend who was going to help me stop gambling but we didn’t follow through. I started checking stocks I had sold to see what they were at in the present day, and I even started doing a lot of reading in financial information. I have this theory that stock markets aren’t gambling because over time, most stocks will gain. And there are often anomalies out there that you can find if you are patient that can give significant returns with very little downside or loss of investment.

So basically Dear Readers, that is the tough nut I need to crack. A person can’t trade and let it get to him. He will be dead in months. And someone with my lack of experience shouldn’t trade so eagerly in volatile stocks. Now, as I write, it is 1:33 AM. I can’t sleep. The market opens at 7:30am and there are stocks I need to keep a close eye on. I am near the point of not really knowing what to do. It is exciting, it is fun, you really can make money, but I can’t tell you if the cost counted in quality of life is worth becoming a trader. More to come. Remember, Jesus saves, Moses invests. (forgive me Jesus, couldn’t resist).

Isolation, Depression, and Boredom. It’s Been Happening to Everyone

So, a great deal of us have been affected by the Pandemic, but there are others to whom isolation and depression are practically fatal. In more cases than people realize.

It was more than twenty years ago. At the time, I had few friends and even the friends I had I didn’t connect with all that well. One of the things I was trying to do at the time was to live within my means, which was simply a small cheque each month from Canada Pension Plan disability. The most serious problem? Boredom had overtaken me and I found a temporary fix: gambling. This was possibly the worst thing I could ever do in my situation.

There was something so mysterious and glamorous about gambling. I was a huge James Bond fan, and it seemed that even in the books written years before by Ian Fleming, James Bond had uncanny luck with gambling, and knew the games well enough to waltz into any Casino and Waltz out richer than when he came in.

My own gambling wasn’t as dramatic. As a way to balance the budget, the Provincial Government where I live brought in gambling machines called VLTs. On Each of these machines, you could play one of five games, bet as little as a quarter and as much more as you wanted. These machines used scientifically tested prompts to draw people in and keep them feeding dollar coins into them. The level of addiction I experienced, with the flashing lights and bells when you won even the smallest amount of coins, was devastating.

I didn’t spend a lot of money–unless it was one of the rare times when I had a lot of money. I was spending around $10 a day, but when living on disability and not working, $10 was far too much. I have this image in my head from after a loss, I didn’t feel myself valuable enough to sit on a chair, I sat down on the dirty floor near the entrance to my apartment, curled up, wanting to harm myself, wanting my life to end because I had an addiction that had me by the throat and was slowly draining everything out of my life.

Eventually, I would go to bed but when I woke up, there was the old addiction again, and I would do anything–pawn things for 1/10th their value, lie to my parents to get them to lend/give me money. I was at rock bottom. I don’t know why, but it seems that people who already have mental illnesses seem really prone to such emotional/mental based addictions. One day, putting my last money into a machine, I decided when this money was gone I needed to find help. Of course the money went like water through my fingers and I called up Gambler’s Anonymous. I have so much good to say about those meetings, I made some great friends there, and being able to listen to other people’s journey and tell about my own was very helpful. But there was something that I want to mention here that makes it difficult for people with mental illnesses to quit addictions: The people in these meetings can help you quit gambling or drinking or overeating, whatever problem you want to work on in the appropriate 12-step meeting. The problem is, and this isn’t a detraction towards any of these groups–the problem is that when you go to these 12-step meetings, they assure you they can help you modify your behaviour, and that they have a plan for you to rebuild your life, but you have to remember that not all your problems stem from your addiction. Stopping the addiction is great, but you still have to take medications, and you still will have side effects from them. I quit a few things, I quit drinking, smoking, gambling. I went to meetings for each of these, which was amazing, it helps so much to have peer support, but I used a method that I wasn’t taught by any of the 12-step groups, which was fine with them. I have this method I am sure a lot of people have also done and refined more than I have: what I did was I simply stopped allowing myself to even think about these addictions after I stopped them. I first used it at age 17 to quit smoking. What I did was I carefully kept an eye on what I was thinking about, and then if a thought about smoking came up in my head, I would replace the thought with another, non-smoking image that was more powerful. At the time what I did was think about a young woman I really liked, and put a vivid image in my head of her in all her prettiness, and after hours turned to days and days into weeks, I had conquered one of the most insidious addictions. Later in life, another thing I did to deal with my addictions was of course to attend meetings. (I actually taught a class where a guy who had no addiction issues would go to a 12-step meeting just to be able to talk to others in a non-judgemental way–this can be so powerful in healing). The more dedicated people in meetings will often tell you that you need to treat your addictions for the rest of your life, but after a year of intense meeting attendance, I used what I learned to stay quit on my own, and now it has been years since a drink, a bet, or a cigarette. I took a lot of the money I saved and bought myself a reward, a car.

So all that is just one of the roads a person can go down when they are on their own and suffer from addictions. It is good to quit, and it is good to attend meetings, but personally I don’t suggest that once you feel okay with your quitting that you still have to go to three meetings a day–unless you want to. I think that once you are comfortable about quitting, because of the fact that often the stories and the people inside 12-step meetings can be non-productive or negative, I suggest you look into new ways to build a sense of community. I hate to say it but there were a few people I met at these meetings who really took advantage of me, and had little desire to help me, they just wanted to appear to help so they could throw their help in my face when I got sick of their controlling nature. Whew, that was a pretty damning statement. Anyhow, when you have conquered your addictions/habits, I think it is best to look into things like a swimming or diving class, lessons in a sport or in Yoga so you can not only improve your health and how you feel, you can meet others your age to connect with who hopefully don’t carry as much baggage or desire to relapse as people in meetings. It can be hard at first to get yourself known enough in the community to make friends, but it is all based on just treating all others with respect, offering uplifting or encouraging wisdom to new friends and neighbours, volunteering (I volunteer for my community newspaper and love it) and a few others.

Of course, if you find you are experiencing an addiction, the first person you should tell about it before going to meetings trying to heal yourself is your psychiatrist/physician. I know in Alberta, they can connect people with support, counselling, and many other things. I had a doctor who had me go into a stop smoking program and because they offered me two support groups, a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions (they now may be able to get you free nicotine patches as well) and any prescriptions I needed, and I was able to successfully quit. Quitting drinking was a little more difficult, possibly because there is such a lot of societal marketing of alcohol. If needed, I could have gone into a program they would most likely offer anywhere in North America, it is called a dual-diagnosis program for quitting, this means they will take into consideration your mental health diagnosis while helping you quit.

Quitting all these things that we often began doing. because of isolation and boredom, will start to pay off right away. It will positively impact your health, increase your disposable income, and even help your medications to work better for you. And look on the very bright side, if you take the time now to deal with your addictions successfully, when the world starts to wake up post-covid, you will be ready and well-equipped to enjoy the return to freedom.

All the best dear readers!

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen

The Mentally Unsound Zombies That Walk the Night

Before I begin, just wanted to remind you Dear Reader that you can download a free digital copy of my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” by clicking on the tower bridge to the right

                                                                                                               ————————————->>>>

Walter Warren Miller

Have you ever had to wait for a bus in a sketchy part of town after dark? I live in an interesting neighbourhood and had to walk a friend to the bus and I was really surprised at how there are two types of human existence, the one that people show on the outside and the one that comes out after dark. Due to the Covid-19 virus, there were few people on the street but there were still some, and the bus wasn’t running very often so we had to sit for a while. It was kind of an interesting learning experience because my friend has some fears of people around him that perhaps are rational, perhaps have to do with his illness. He got nervous and was talking about all kinds of things, he kept doing something therapists will refer to as mind-reading, he tried to think ahead of all the other people out on the street and I was very concerned for him. This friend has just recently tried to make a decision to stop using illicit drugs and was also telling me about some of the things he had gotten himself involved in. I really wanted to step up and try and offer him some solutions, but all I could really do was stay there until the bus came and listen. One of the things that surprised me is that a guy came past and asked to bum a cigarette and my friend gave him one, then I think in a round about way he tried to ask if anyone around was selling heroin. That really opened up a can of worms for me. I don’t want to sound like I’m ranting, but I grew up in a generation that was supposed to have a war on drugs and as I have gotten older I have been learning that often even the US government was supporting drug imports in different ways to finance some of their darker operations, and I have also seen (I am not 100% sure, but as it is an American policy it may also have been a Canadian one) film where a military leader explained that they didn’t want to stop the growth of opium crops because it would harm the people they had come to help. There are many more facets to this line of thought, there is the concept that when a person buys illegal drugs the money they are spending goes to support terrorism. Now terrorism itself is an interesting word. Is it terrorism to defend your home with your very life and strap a bomb to yourself and try to get aggressive foreign agencies out of your country but not terrorism when you do something like was done in Viet Nam where agent orange was used to defoliate the countryside and it nearly destroyed the country, not to mention killed a lot of Americans. I’m not trying to side with the people that flew planes into the World Trade Center, but there seems to be a lot of shaky moral ground on both sides. I don’t blame the troops, they are there to follow orders, provide for their needs and that of their families, but when I hear the police come to the street outside my window every single night to chase off people shooting heroin in the lobby of my building, I really wish something more could be done. A lot of these people are dying in this area because they think they are getting heroin but instead are getting much more powerful opiates and they overdose. I do happen to know there is hope for even the worst addicts, though I don’t feel that safe injection sites are the most effective ways of dealing with this issue. I have known people who were addicted to heroin and got off of it by going into a methadone program. There are even countries where serious addicts get a visit from a nurse once a day who gives them a very low dose of heroin, not enough to make them high, but enough to make their desperation and cravings go away and they are able to function, experience a huge difference in quality of life and their families often even start to trust and accept them again.

I feel kind of happy right now because we had our first warm Spring day. I decided I was going to take a ten-mile walk to a mall in the far north end of Edmonton and it was glorious. Wanting to proceed with caution, I used a home made mask. For those of you interested in making your own mask, try this YouTube video (click on the highlighted text) halfway to my destination, there was a young woman who seemed to be having an extremely hard time. She was frail and skinny looking and was dancing around, her hair and clothes a mess and a bunch of clothes and scraps laying on the sidewalk around her. My best guess was that she was going through withdrawal, but what real difference is there between addiction and poor mental health? I wished I could help her, but that would have meant taking so many risks. Instead, I walked around her knowing there was little I could do, and that at least with it being warm she wasn’t at risk of exposure. An hour or so later I came back to this area and I thought I saw a small child sitting on the sidewalk. It wasn’t a child, it was the dancing woman and now she was sitting and trying to stick a needle into her arm. It was extremely disturbing to watch. What a person has to understand is that whether or not someone chose to be there, they are deep into a state where all they can think about is their drug and getting more of it. They don’t care if they steal or harm someone, they don’t care if they have been told their needle use has gotten them infected with HIV or Hepatitis, they just need to shoot up. I hate that I have become jaded like this, but I have something in my life extremely important. I have a family that loves me and depends on me and if I were to stop and try and help everyone I see in this sort of state, I would soon be of no use to them. I may even be on drugs at some point myself. No one can really say they are immune to addictions. People who abuse alcohol often think they are a step above those who abuse illicit drugs but they are seeking the same high and may never be able to break free from their problem. Not to mention that for a significant section of the population, alcohol gives a pleasant high, a feeling of ease, of confidence and pleasure. One day an alcoholic may want to see what one step higher would be like, it happens every day all over the place. A person who feels confidant that they never did hard drugs and didn’t drink until they were 18 or 21 is just as much at risk of serious addiction as anyone.

Working a while back in the inner city, teaching addicts and disadvantaged people about poetry to better express themselves in a book we were creating, I learned there is a pattern: first, a person drinks some and does minor, soft drugs. They work say a labour job and one day they are injured. As they are healing, they are given opiates as painkillers. Then they take some time off and one day they will discover that buying drugs off the street is much less expensive than prescription drugs. Soon, a tolerance is reached and more drugs are needed. From there it can be all downhill. More drugs, less ability to manage their own life, loss of employment, savings, family support and on and on. It is a deathly evil trap.

What I really wanted to say with today’s blog is that I honestly feel that our society needs to look at drugs and those whose lives it destroys in new and more progressive ways. Is it right to allow a country to export huge amounts of poppies that can be made into opiates, opium, heroin and more. Is it really Christian (or Muslim) to look down at these people and not do anything to help them manage their lives or get off drugs and alcohol. I have been a strong speaker against the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I don’t like people getting labels that put them into a box. But we are doing this with addictions all the time. And the plain fact is that addictions are a mental illness just like bipolar or schizophrenia. What we have to try and understand as well is that often people fall into a deep hole of drugs, pills, and booze because they have a serious mental illness of the more traditional type and they don’t know any way of dealing with it other than to mask the pain by doing what is called ‘self-medicating.’

The last and most unfortunate part of mental illness and addiction is something I even have a very hard time talking about. Things like child abuse, childhood sexual abuse, trauma, and sometimes all these things rolled into one can often cause a person to be mentally ill and even more often cause them to have addictions. Alcohol has a unique ability to stop REM sleep which means if you drink enough you don’t get nightmares. PTSD is something that a lot of people have, from any part of their lives. I know a lot of firemen and police officers, and I am sure ER nurses and paramedics have a tendency to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t know the statistics for Canada, but in the US for sure a lot of retired cops eventually commit suicide due to a breakdown of their mental condition. Countless others become alcoholics and alcohol abusers.

As a short added point, it is important to understand that things like cannabis are not harmless drugs. In Canada, cannibis use and cultivation is legal, but the truth is that if a person starts using it before their brains are fully matured (around 25) they tend to give themselves a 40% higher chance of developing a mental illness that includes psychosis. Psychosis is pretty scary. You see things that aren’t there, hear things that haven’t been said, get grandiose or disturbing thoughts, and before you know it your whole life has fallen apart. I hate to end on a sad note, but it really affected me talking with this friend today. Anyone out there who has some praying they want to get done, his name is Damien and he could use some divine and local intervention to save his life.

 

God and Spirituality: A Sunday Sermon About Mental Health and Mental Illness

Hello Dear readers. just thought I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the chance to check out my sister site, Dear Ava (click here) for great Mother’s Day gifts and a wonderful blog.

I have some exciting news, I am near to getting approval to start to distribute two of my other books for free as eBooks here on this site. Please stay tuned and click the Tower Bridge photo———> at right to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” —————————>

I wanted to share a great review I received about this book from the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, so here goes:

Leif Gregersen provides up-close, first hand insight into the world of schizophrenia. Known as potentially the most devastating mental illness accompanied by horrible societal stigma, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and especially mis-characterizations of those living with and recovering from schizophrenia, Mr. Gregersen humanizes this illness by his own lived experience. Most importantly, we see a person, not just a diagnosis. We see his identity as he tells his story. His identity is not rooted in symptoms and pathology but in purpose, meaning, and how he wishes to help others to become more compassionately present with those with mental health challenges and their family members and friends.   This whole process or journey is now called, “recovery.” Recovery is living beyond the limitation of a mental illness with meaning, purpose, a sense of identity and resiliency, social inclusion. Mr. Gregersen lives a life of recovery.

Dr. Chris Summerville, D.Min., CPRRP, LL.D (Honorius), CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

So what is a church really? There are so many loose definitions. I was talking to my cousin on this topic a short time ago and really we started to get down to what the Buddhists believe, that the place of worship is a place of refuge. I admitted to him that my place of refuge, before I started going to church on my own was a library, specifically the library in St.Albert. One day shortly after I stopped collecting comics I started watching a wonderful series done by Levar Burton (Geordie Laforge from Star Trek: The Next Generation) called Reading Rainbow. He used to talk about all kinds of reading, and even how picture books can have a value. Since I loved reading and comic books were no longer cool, I started at the children’s section of our city library and looked for things that sparked my interest. One of the first books was one about the FBI. It had a lot of pictures and some easy to read text, but the funny thing is I learned so much about the FBI (former the Treasury Department) that I have a working knowledge of the agency to this day. After that, I worked my way upstairs to the adult sections and I think I started out with history books. I was fascinated with World War Two and I was a cadet at the time, so a large knowledge of combat and weapons came in pretty handy when friends and I got into discussions about our mutual passion. I went on to pore through photography books, books of old old cartoon strips, comedy books, and even managed to sneak a book about nude photography past the librarian. For years when I had the time I would head to the library and read as many magazines as I could. When I lived in North Vancouver on the coast, I was so much of a regular at the magazine stand the Librarians knew what I liked to read and got to know me. Then of course there were the novels I devoured, especially if they had a historical or military theme. It was almost a natural progression for me to become a writer. What the best part of it was, was that after being released from the psychiatric hospital and being low income and not having too many friends, writing was the perfect thing for me. I didn’t have to have qualifications or degrees, I just had to be able to put pen to paper and all my reading experience served me well. When I told my cousin this and asked him what his refuge was, he said it was his stereo. He has worked in some of the top music stores in the country, he is an accomplished band and studio musician, and to him music was his refuge. I encourage anyone with stress in their lives that either have a mental illness or not to find something to take refuge in. For a lot of people it can be a musical instrument, especially a piano. I used to carry around a harmonica even though I wasn’t very accomplished at it, I liked making sound and trying to play songs and find rhythms. For a while I also tried to play guitar, and even with my horribly limited knowledge of it, when I sit down with a guitar I enter a whole new world.

One of the funny things that is starting to happen is that I am becoming such good friends with my cousin that I am now helping him to write things, and he is starting to give me advice on how to write songs that he hopes to later put to music. But there are so many more things you can do. With the pandemic and all, I went and bought myself an expensive model of one of my favourite WWII planes, the B-25 Mitchell. I am looking forward to blocking out some time for it and watching with excitement as the plane begins to take shape.

Of course, through all this I think the best advice I have gotten when I talk about my books and my walking and other things that keep me going was from my psychiatric nurse. She simply said that my mental health is the absolute priority. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if I got ill again and had to go in the hospital. No one trusts you there, a lot of sick people who may even be unable to grasp ideas like covering up a cough or wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is all about. So I am doing my best to make my appointments, and to take all of my medications. I have noticed that when I get a bit out of kilter with the isolation, I tend to forget about my medications sometimes. I do get all of them in blister packs which is great because you just have to pop out the pills you need at that particular time of day and you are fine.

I am so lucky to have not only a course of medications that work well for me, but also my body has adapted to the medications so now they work really well on my symptoms but allow me to pursue certain things like my extra long walks and writing sessions. I can’t prescribe medications for people out there but I can say that if you get active in your treatment, listen carefully to your psychiatrist and ask a lot of questions, and perhaps even work through some of your issues in group or individual therapy there is a major chance you are going to make a full recovery, even go back to work. I guess though, since this is a Sunday blog that I should put out a request for a very special client of mine. She lives alone and has Tueurettes syndrome, she can’t stop swearing and doesn’t leave the house and feels very ashamed of her illnesses. She is truly a very kind lady and was nice enough to get two of my books from the library and read them.

Just to talk. little about church again, people often refer to a place of worship as a church, but really no matter how many solid bricks in the building, that isn’t a church. The people who attend the church, who participate in giving and sharing and working together and supporting each other in a Christian walk, those people are the church. I don’t want to get too far into it all, but you are welcome to post comments that I will respond to. I guess I would like to close by defining spirituality and religion, if I can get it right. Religion is for people who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back. I would encourage anyone who attends a church, or even just wants to live a better, less stressful life to try to embrace the spiritual. Remember we are all immortal souls in need of love and caring, young and old. Avoid judging people, and if you see them hurting, why not help and maybe even tell them about how attending a church, reading the word of God (the bible) and learning to pray can transform just about anyone. Good night dear readers, more to come soon!

 

What Not to Say to an Expecting Mama, and a Little About Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Please don’t forget if you haven’t already to download a copy of my new book at right———->

It is totally free to download and share and gives an excellent snapshot of what it is like to be in a psychiatric ward for psychosis. Just below the link (the picture of the tower bridge) is a video you can view of me reading from the book and explaining parts of it.

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have partnered up with a website called DearAva that runs a blog that often deals with mental health issues. I will be posting some of their content below, if you get a chance, check out their site, it’s kind of a nice one. I just wanted to say a few things about pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a very difficult time for women, I have even heard that becoming pregnant is likely the greatest risk a woman can take with her health. The person goes through so many hormonal changes that often the woman who has recently had a baby will go through a very serious and severe depression known as postpartum depression. I have a family member who had a child and never stopped having depression, which normally only lasts a short while. Aside from the physical risks, which I won’t get into, there are some things that people with mental illnesses have to consider. Something that really irks me is when people imply that if you have a mental illness you shouldn’t have children. This was a decision my mom had to make, and I want to honestly say that even though I have been through some pretty difficult times, and had to deal with a lot because of my genetically inherited mental illness, I still totally think it was worthwhile that I was put here on this Earth. My mom had three children and we all loved her dearly and have so many wonderful memories of growing up and having her as a parent. We had a chance to learn so much from her that was passed down in her family, and all of us have had some wonderful times. Along with a genetic illness, my mom passed on something incredibly worthwhile, she passed on her intelligence and love of learning, which has brought the three of us to places we thought we could never go.

Regarding an actual pregnancy though, if you may be pregnant, it is important to find out as soon as you can because if you are taking psychiatric medications you may want to actually go off some of them for the health of your unborn child. This should only be done with direct supervision of a psychiatrist. This can make for an extremely difficult time during pregnancy, many of us need our medications, but if you consult your doctor you may be able to find alternatives that are shown to be less harmful. It goes without saying that a person should never smoke or drink during pregnancy, or even be around smoke, and it should also be said that it can be extremely risky to be around marijuana smoke or to smoke it yourself, not to mention all the other recreational drugs out there.

As for my views on love and marriage, I just wanted to briefly state that since I was young even when I didn’t go to church, I have felt that you shouldn’t sleep with anyone you don’t plan on having a lifetime commitment to. This is because it can be so difficult for one parent to raise a child and it is the child that ends up being harmed in these situations. I don’t mean to preach or even to advise anyone on this, it is just something that I believe, and I also believe that a person shouldn’t get married with the intention of having children unless they are financially secure enough to do so. All that balderdash aside, please enjoy the below post from Dear Ava

What NOT To Say To An Expecting Mama

We’ve all been there. A dear friend is pregnant, and you’re bursting with excitement! You may want to share your own experience with pregnancy and childbirth, or you may want to give her the best piece of advice you’ve heard when it comes to raising children. While many things can be taken in stride by pregnant women, there are a few zingers that you’ll want to steer clear of, even though you have the best of intentions.

“Wow, you’re huge!”

This, or any other comment on her weight or size, isn’t a good idea. If you want to comment on her appearance, the appropriate sentiment is, “you look beautiful.”

“Sleep while you can.”

Pregnant mothers-to-be are exhausted from growing a tiny human, and the last thing they need to hear is how they may be even more exhausted when the baby arrives. If you’d like to be helpful, offer to come over after the baby arrives and clean, cook, or hold the little one while she showers and catches some much-needed zzz’s.

“Say goodbye to your free time/ hobbies/ relationship.”

New moms know that their entire world is about to change, and they’re likely working hard to wrap their heads around just how different life is going to be once their little one makes their appearance. Talking about how their life will change for the better – they’ll be so in love with their child, they’ll have a new respect for their partner, they’ll get to experience the best parts of being a little kid all over again – is a much better way to go than saying something negative.

“My childbirth experience was horrible.”

Mamas, especially first-timers, are often terrified at the idea of giving birth. While it can feel like a bonding experience to share horror stories, do so out of earshot of an expecting mom. Setting her up to even more anxious than she already is to have her baby doesn’t help – it only creates worry.

“Are you sure you’re eating enough/ aren’t you eating too much?”

A pregnant mom’s diet is between two people – her and her doctor. There’s no need to comment on how much or how little she’s eating. There’s no way to know whether she just got done fasting for a test, or if she’s so nauseous she’s struggling to keep down ginger ale and saltines. If you’re in a situation where there’s food, ask her if there’s anything you can get for her so she can sit down and relax.

It can be hard to know exactly what to say to a pregnant woman. Erring on the side of staying positive is always smart. If you’ve had a child before, it can be tempting to share your wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) experiences with a mom-to-be, but tread lightly. Encouragement, positivity, and excitement are always welcome, while judgment, shame, and questioning of one’s decisions are not. When in doubt, ask her how you can help her get ready for her bundle of joy to arrive, and be on call for questions and support when the baby arrives.

 

Relationships and the Person With Schizophrenia, Bipolar or a Major Mood Disorder

I think that when a person has a mental health disability they have every chance a normal person has to get into a relationship, but there are times and situations to reveal things and times and situations to keep things hidden.

As a person who works in mental health, and has written books about it, I have almost no apprehension about disclosing to others that I have a mental illness. I have always felt that if you try and hide it, it will only look worse later on, and letting out the fact that you have a mental illness is something that in a way tests your prospective dating partner or friend, it weeds out those people who are too shallow to see you as a human being under the protective layers of medication and other strategies to treat poor mental health such as putting them on a disability pension and suggesting they not work.

It’s kind of a funny thing, I grew up in a kind of ritzy suburb of Edmonton called St.Albert where everything was clean yards, white picket fences, and people with no problems, at least that was the way it seemed on the surface. When I contact people I used to associate with when I was growing up there, they still seem to be very proud of their suburban advantage. I will admit, it is nice to be in a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood, but that place drove me crazy. One time my mom sent me to mail a cheque to pay a bill and I walked down the street and opened the mailbox just as a schoolboy was going by. I didn’t think much of it until I got home and someone phoned me demanding to know who I just wrote a letter to. I took what money I had, and struck out thumb first for the coast. It was an amazing experience, and the Rocky Mountains between where I live and the coast, (Vancouver, BC) were indescribably beautiful. I got to Vancouver and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in a kind of bad part of town and I was off my medications, but that semblance of a normal life that I had there was so much better than living under the stigma and judgement of all those people in St.Albert

Sadly, I did get sick (mentally) out there eventually, but I did almost spark up a couple of relationships, though nothing lasting or significant. There was a young woman I fancied who I used to hang out with quite a bit some years ago and she told me that she didn’t think someone without a mental health problem could have a relationship with someone who did. I often wonder if I have been banging my head against a wall trying to prove her wrong all these 20+ years after she said it. I do know that I have received some incredibly cruel responses to trying to get a young woman I meet to go for coffee with me or get her phone number. One of them flat out said to me, “I’m not going to call you.” and threw down the pencil she was about to write my number down with. I suppose that was understandable because though she was fully grown she was still in high school (I was around 22 or so at the time) and people that age quite often lack maturity. One of the let-downs that really hurt was when I asked a friend’s sister if she wanted to meet for coffee after her and I had some really great phone conversations and she said, just as though I was asking her to commit a crime, “Are you trying to date me? If you are I’m not interested.) I’m not mad at these people, and I don’t really fault them for what they said, but it is a good example of some of the kinds of things that will get said to a person who is trying to get to know the opposite sex who has a history of mental illness, and you need to end up kind of tough.

Sometimes I can’t believe I am now 48 and am not married or have any kids. It always seemed to me that there would be time, I had to wait until I was financially stable, I had to wait for the perfect intelligent, beautiful woman to come along. Some of them have come along and had real problems with how I would act at times, badly enough that they stopped all contact with me. And it really isn’t an issue of me being unattractive, I work out, I’m very fit, and I have solicited honest opinions from a number of women who place me around 9 out of 10 on the old ‘attractiveness’ scale. I think a lot of what it has to do with is simply living alone and not stepping out of my self-imposed boundaries. One such boundary was that when I was young I would go to dances but I would never dance. Not. One. Dance. In years. I had so much anxiety flowing through my veins that I locked myself inside myself. There were a lot of things I could do, and a lot of those things I did well. I was an exemplary Air Cadet, a good athlete, an honour student and on and on. I had little problems working hard at school or the various jobs I had, I could even ask for help, but for some reason though I was totally straight, I felt it was a bad thing to relax and let your hormones take over. When I really think hard about it, I think about how much my parents meant to me, and how sad it seemed that people had to grow up and take on a life of their own and move away and parents would be left to rot in a senior’s home. I have felt so strongly about the injustice of this situation that I have volunteered to work in pastoral care in extended care hospitals, and I even try and visit a friend’s mom in the lodge she lives in because my friend lives way out of town. I also do a lot of things with my Dad and try and call him at least once a day. One of the funny things about me having this idea in my head is that my parents were very honest and forthcoming about the fact that us kids would grow up and go through puberty and one day meet someone outside of the family we wanted to share our life with. My Dad let my brother and I read playboy when I was I think 14. My mom had ‘the talk’ with us. But there was little taught to me in the way of communication, of respecting the opposite sex, which led to something actually kind of horrible.

It was the summer of 1988 and I had been out of Air Cadets for a whole year. I had a job delivering pizza which kept me in pizza and gas and cigarettes but I was extremely depressed and extremely lonely. One day I got a call from a young woman who used to hang out with some other people we both knew, she wanted to meet me at a make-out spot way on the other end of town. I got there and she was all dressed up like a prostitute and asked me to follow her to a different part of the lake. When we got there I sat down with her and she kept trying to coax me into agreeing to sleep with her, she even was rubbing my thigh. I took her hand away and finally, exasperated at what she was doing, and not wanting to hurt her feelings I said, “Yes, but…” and just as I was about to say why I didn’t want to sleep with her she punched me in the face and a bunch of the people I had known came out of the surrounding trees and were laughing out loud at me. It was the worst possible thing to happen, to this day I don’t fully understand why they did it. Part of it I am assuming was that I had a foul mouth at the age as I was working around adults, most of them oil or construction workers who were temporarily laid off and I often swore a blue streak. Other than that I really don’t know what caused those people to hatch such an elaborate plan. It was a really great way to destroy my confidence for at least another couple of years. Then, when I got to Vancouver those people were no longer around, there was no one to judge, no one to impress, and I started to meet all kinds of young women.

The truth is though, in my life I have only really had one meaningful relationship with a woman, and I still talk to her to this day. When I first met her almost 30 years ago we talked and joked and laughed, ended up studying together and going out for coffee a lot. It actually blossomed to a loving relationship for a while but that part of things broke apart after not too long. She is still one of my dearest friends. I don’t know really what all of this adds up to, what I do know is that one should always respect friends and lovers, always treat them as equals. As a young Air Cadet and later as a Student Pilot I had many chances to have one night stands, but I knew that a one night stand would never help me at all. I would find an attachment towards the person and it would be devastating to start and lose a relationship like that, not to mention several times. So I waited and waited and waited, and finally I met someone who I had a real connection to and it was about a million times more amazing than any experience I ever had, and now, 30 years later I still haven’t had to say any permanent goodbyes. As I am getting pretty tired I will leave things there, as always feel free to write to me with any topic related to mental health you would like me to write about in my next blog and I will do my best to accommodate. My email for responses, and for ordering books is viking3082000@yahoo.com   Thanks so much for joining me!       -LNG               Leif Norgaard Gregersen Senior below: