bipolar

Life Expectancy of a Severely Mentally Ill Person: Is My Clock Running Out?

Good Morning Dear Readers! Fortune has smiled upon us, it is time for a new blog! What does that mean? Basically it means I can’t sleep once again and had a lot of thoughts running through my mind.

First off, the photo you see is not me but my father. He has been my rock and my hero for such a long time, but at 84 he is finally starting to show his age. He keeps somehow forgetting how to turn on the cable box for his TV. He forgets passwords, then forgets where he writes them down, and then I have to come over and fix everything. I don’t really mind, I love spending time with my dad. Anyone who reads my book, “Alert and Oriented x3” (which you can download by clicking on London’s Tower Bridge to the right of this article) will clearly see that he has done so much to care for me and help me despite some very hard times with my illness. I don’t know if it is the source of all the troubles, though something does make sense. I have heard information that states my dad is so confused and forgetful because he has a blockage in an artery in his neck and needs it cleared, and after that is done everything will be fine.

It is such a scary thing to go through, and I can’t imagine it is easy for my dad either. Some 10 years ago now, we lost my mom. My dad sometimes still sees her or thinks she is still with us. I know to many it sounds like Alzheimers or dementia, and the fact is I am very worried it might be. My grandfather, my dad’s dad has Alzheimers and so did his brother, my Uncle Nille. Basically, I am going to have to help him and support him while he waits for surgery and while he is recovering and it feels like it is taking a lot out of me.

On other fronts, things seem to be going well for me on many counts. Not the least of which is getting a story in an online newsmagazine about the three most important books I have read that help me to deal with mental illness. Anyone interested can link to the article here: https://thenewsstation.com/three-books-that-helped-me-overcome-my-mental-illness/

I guess I also want to talk a little more about my recent decision to use Cannabis Products, specifically high CBD, low THC pills to help me sleep. In a way, I think the Cannabinoids (CBD) are taking away some of my ambition. But along with that, they also seem to solve a very serious problem I have that has been with me for decades. It is an antisocial mindset where I feel angry and slighted and say and do things that make others feel bad to make myself feel better. For a while, I was watching videos by a man named Noah Elkrief, and he had some amazing insights on how to stop being angry all the time. Basically the foundation of his theory was that if we truly put ourselves into the shoes of the other person, looking for ways to exonerate them for whatever angers us, there is really no way to keep being angry. It worked really well for a while but then I lost the habit, and now that I have been ingesting CBD pills, my anger is somehow medicinally lowered, and I am able to resume my habit of empathizing with people. If you add to that my improved sleep, it is kind of miraculous. I think I have said most of that before. I have always had a problem with sleep in my life. I can remember as far back as being a toddler and being in my parent’s bed watching an ancient digital clock flip over numbers. I was so young I couldn’t tell time, but for some reason I remember looking at that clock and wondering how late my parents were going to stay up.

This leads into another situation that has me a bit concerned. For the past couple of years I have been using sleep aids, and ever since, my memory has been declining. As you just read, I don’t have any problems remembering things that happened almost 50 years ago as a child, but my brain goes into fogs where I can’t remember the name of people I have worked with for three years. I was talking to a friend about my dad and she pointed out that I am losing some of my faculties and I am much younger than my dad. It was a humbling experience.

Well, dear readers. I have another friend who always tells me not to worry about getting older, that age is just a number. Unfortunately 12:00 midnight is also just a number and I have to take my dad to his doctor tomorrow. I do want to leave you with one thing though. When I look back at the joy my dad gave me, the opportunities he made possible and the love he showed when I was at my worst, my only real regret is never accomplishing the dream I had for most of my life of having a child to teach everything to and to love just like my dad did with me. Perhaps there will be someone out there, someone who never had a father, never had a dad who can read these words and understand that there is always hope, that just about every life is without limits. And maybe a million years ago some visitor from a distant planet will find my archived blogs, read them, and see that in so many ways, life on Earth is a beautiful thing.

-LG

Poetry, Mental Health and Addiction, and How Our Work Defines Us

Just a heads up, if you click on the photo of London’s Tower Bridge to the right, you will be able to download a free copy of my latest mental health book!

I wrote a poem during my writing class that I teach Mondays and Thursdays (please email viking3082000@yahoo.com if you want to join, there are limited spots). I wanted to write about the executive lifestyle and how some people, especially over-achievers will go to business school, work their way up the ladder, end up very successful, then realize that they never really did in life what they wanted.

In the poem, the main character is basically in the middle of a nervous breakdown and all he really knows how to help himself is with drugs and alcohol. I hope you like it, let me know what you think.

Incidentally, some time this week I will be published in the Ottawa Citizen, in the opinion section. I will put a link to the article here for anyone interested.

Big City Headache

By Leif Gregersen

Killer migraine pounding my head hard

As I wake up in some stranger’s yard

Wandering cold, no place to rest, no way to clean

So many live like this, it seems so obscene

Eat at the shelter three meals a day

Life until now was never this way

So much has happened, so much was lost

Once I had so many possessions, caring not of the cost

No need for coffee, no need for sleep

Just us two would do, cocaine and me

It’s hard to conceive but I forgot my name

Still in some small way I’m more happy insane

My wife came and found me as I sat on a curb

Tossed me her wedding ring without a word

Desperate, I pawned it, then got a room

Sat down and took stock of the poisons I had consumed

I started working temp labour to pay the rent

Fell dead asleep exhausted each night, fully content

I bought back the ring, then went for a walk

But I knew my ex-wife wouldn’t even talk

I walked a long way to a bridge and looked down

Nothing to stop me, no one around

In that desperate state I knew what to do

I tossed in the ring and felt happy and new

Then I did some walking and thinking all night alone

Caring not for my trophy wife or my former home

I now make minimum wage for very hard work

But I’m a real person now, not some uncaring jerk

Cannabis and Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Depression

Just about every one of us have some kind of moral guidance in our lives when it comes to using cannabis products. I think just about as many people oppose it as support it, and both sides claim to have incontrovertible evidence. I don’t use THC, and to be honest, I haven’t spent as much time thinking about it to make a fair judgement that I want to pass on to you, my dear readers. What I do know is that cannabis has been made legal in all of Canada, while only some of the US states call it legal and the Federal Government declares cannabis illegal in all states, leaving many in a difficult and precarious position.

A few weeks ago, more likely a few months, I wandered into a pot shop and started asking questions. One thing I know about THC–I should avoid it like the plague. It makes me paranoid and unbalances my precarious hold on my mental health. But they had product that contained no THC which had cannabinoids oil and capsules. I had heard a lot about the benefits of cannabinoids and decided to gamble $15 Canadian on a few pills.

The first one I tried had kind of comical results. I thought I was getting stoned when in actuality I was just anticipating feeling stoned so much that I believed it was happening. Eventually I fell asleep and had one of the best rests I have had in a long time.

It is now months after that. I have been using cannabinoids for a while. One of the best things about it is that it takes away my susceptibility to get angry. Yes, it clears/calms my head. And I can take some, then take a nap or go to sleep for the night, and fall asleep easier, but wake up refreshed, not drugged.

The expense of the product is a factor that still bothers me. $15 for 15 CBD pills, $50 for 30 of the extra-strength CBD pills. The inexpensive alternative is to use the CBD oils but I have tried that and it seems they don’t have as much as an effect on me.

So, all things considered, I still need to ask myself if I support cannabis products. As a consumer, it is hard to tell anyone they shouldn’t, but I do think anyone who has a mental illness should consult with a psychiatrist, making sure to tell them what type of product you want to/already use. In my case, THC isn’t worth it, but CBD is. Doctors always weigh the risks of a medication based on what it gives you and the negative things that can happen. My understanding is that THC has more risks than rewards in people under 25, and that over 25, if you aren’t prone to paranoia, there are more rewards than risks.

Something I always think about was interviewing a renowned psychiatrist for a radio documentary I was making, and asking him what the most important thing he had to say in closing. He looked very serious and said to me: “The most important thing for people to understand is that marijuana and alcohol are not benign drugs.”

I will be honest with all of you. There were times I was in the psychiatric hospital and there were patients who were normal before chronic pot use and had to spend years in mental health treatment. Their diagnosis was “drug induced psychosis.” If you have a family history of poor mental health, please avoid THC. If you are under 25, please understand that your brain hasn’t stopped developing yet and you may be damaging it by using THC products. Also, look at THC use as a fun, recreational experience, and watch out that your using doesn’t take over your life.

Living With Schizophrenia: Take Me For What I Am

Hello Dear Readers:

A lot has been going on lately. I marked the passing of a friend named Walter Warren Miller. He was an amazing man. He had served in the military, travelled the world, worked a full career as a Canada Post Employee, and he dealt with mental illness.

What I would really like to talk about today though, is how all of us are flawed in some way. Perhaps in our haphazard interactions with the rest of the human race, we can’t help but make mistakes. But all of us do. We forget to spend time with those we love who may be struggling. We give what we think is our love but is actually just meaningless money.

This is where I end up having problems with many born-again right-wing churches. Their take on making mistakes almost seems to be that if you made one, you are a marked person and because you made that mistake you don’t love Christ and should be cast away.

I encountered so much of this in my time in the Pentecostal Church. It was never a written rule but it seemed that, according to them, if the Pastor gives an empowering speech and you walk to the altar to make ‘a decision for Christ’ that is all you will ever have to do to go to Heaven.

However, in Catholicism, they have a way for people to work on themselves continuously, confessing their sins. Even when they pass away, it is understood that they will spend time in a place called Purgatory where people go to work off the debt of their sins.

But to not just throw all my will and power to the major religions, I should talk about my own philosophy as to dealing with sin. First of all, I think educating people about sensitivity and understanding for the people they interact with, should be done as intensely as you teach a child to brush his or her teeth or work on math problems.

Then, if and when the child you carefully instruct gets older, when they make a mistake, it isn’t seen as a reason to mark that person for life, but an opportunity to educate the person on why what they did was wrong, how the people on the other side of the equation are made to feel about it. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the baby gets the time and attention it needs to perhaps feel even closer to society and emerge a better person from the experience.

I would like to try and relate what I was talking about to mental illness, but you know–I am a bit reluctant to. Mental illness is something far different than criminal or abusive behaviour. Mental illness takes away everything you have and so very many people who are chronically afflicted end their own lives.

If I were the head policy maker of this nation, I suppose which can be called “Edu-Nation” seeing as how it is based on educating rather than penalizing people, I would do a few things for the mentally ill.

I think the first thing I would want to do would be to develop some sort of housing, mental health resources and more to homeless people. There are so many people out asking for spare change these days who are just killing time, having nowhere to go. All to often this leads to alcoholism and substance abuse which exacerbates any mental health issues.

All too many of these transient people die on the streets every year. One thing I would like to do would be to train roving support workers to go to these people on the streets and alleys where they live. Find out what is keeping them from getting treatment, give them socks and long underwear in the winter. Bring them inexpensive meals when possible. Basically, try to entice these people to come back to the regular world.

Well, good readers. This was a ‘woke up in the middle of the night’ blog entry. I hope it makes some sense to people, I really shouldn’t write when I’m so tired. Have an awesome day and thanks for visiting! Don’t forget to click on the photo of London’s Tower Bridge to the right of this blog to download your free copy of my latest book (digital format).

Living With a Combination of Schizophrenia, Bipolar and Anxiety Can Get Interesting

Well, I actually haven’t had all that much happen today that was interesting. The highlight of my day was finishing reading another Lee Child, Jack Reacher novel. I have taken up reading again as of late and it always feels good when I finish reading anything of sufficient length. For some strange reason, in the past years I fell out of love with books. I still bought just about as many and I still brought home any free ones but I haven’t been reading novels in years. Finding this amazing character “Jack Reacher” has made things easier, though I have read other stuff. Among the books I have been reading recently I have to include “Girl, Interrupted” and “The Collected Schizophrenias” I have been working on a book review for “The News Station” online magazine and these two were of particular interest. “Girl, Interrupted” is a very gripping tale of a young woman coming to terms with borderline personality disorder while in a psychiatric hospital. “The Collected Schizophrenias” is a study of schizophrenia and also a life story of a woman who experiences it. Regardless of how easy it is or how much information is available, I have never found anything to work better than reading an entire book on a subject to familiarize ones’ self with the subject.

There was something interesting that happened to me today. I did a simple buy in the stock market of a very stable stock and took advantage of a very small price move but with a high number of shares and made about $130.00. The markets are so fascinating to me, they are all about numbers, and I constantly work out numbers in my head. What amazes me is that in the past couple of weeks I have owned everything from a share in Uranium mines in Mongolia to Oil wells in South America, not only without leaving my apartment, but without having any knowledge at all in how these businesses are conducted. Normally this would be a recipe for disaster, but I have been buying and selling on how much hype the stock gets rather than anything to do with the stock’s actual profitability. One of the things I find myself worried about is how fast inflation is coming at us, at the gas pumps, in the grocery store and many other places. I thank my lucky star I live in supportive housing, don’t have a car and live alone. The average bills of a family of five like the one I grew up in would break me in short order.

Sometimes that is all it comes down to… Did I do better than my parents? I can answer that with a no, especially since for years my dad was a successful businessman and my mom worked many meaningful jobs.

The thing about the stock market and me… Some people warn me of the risks and caution me. My main problem with it is that playing the stock market can be just about as bad as playing a game of roulette or even Russian roulette if the stakes are high enough. Not all that long ago I had a problem with gambling addiction. It took me years of forcing myself to avoid any place that had gambling, which was a lot of places since the Liquor and Gaming Board has video lottery terminals in most bars. But I forced myself and I am glad for it. A lot of the time it came down to the temptation of simply riding the bus home. When I arrived, there was a number of bars with VLTs that I could stop in at and maybe make a couple of bucks. Not that I would ever stop after just making a couple of bucks. Any former or current addicted gambler knows that it is a sin to leave a place with even a quarter in your pocket.

So basically what I had to do was to get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk the extra distance, trying not to think of gambling. This was fairly easy, all I had to do was keep something on my mind that was more powerful than gambling. So I would fill my head with images of supermodels and former love interests and soon it became easy to go past the bars with VLTs in them. It also didn’t hurt that I soon realized after working in a bar that a somewhere like that is not a good place to meet friends or potential life partners. I kept on running into guys who knew more about ripping people off than they did about the job they worked at. The women in bars, if they aren’t raging alcoholics yet, were often cruel and insulting. At a certain point in my life I decided that as good as all the young women may look, I simply can’t focus my life around a place founded on mutual alcohol consumption. That made it easier to quit drinking, easier to quit gambling and smoking and I am amazed now at how much extra money I have.

Most people out there have a place in mind of where they would like most to live. I often think of the suburban city I grew up in and what it would be like to live on the millionaire side of the city. But for many reasons, friends, love interests, different ideas from our spouse, it doesn’t come true. The sad fact is that 99% of us have to make the most out of what is dropped in our laps. The thing is, just about anything can be good or bad. I have a job opportunity coming up that I just can’t make it to. When I think of not having this job, I try to emphasize to myself that I am already earning close to the limit my disability pension allows, and it will be so much better to have that extra time to complete other projects.

Just about any situation can be treated this way. I joked recently to a friend that I was so positive that if someone told me I was going to die by Saturday I would be happy that this week I wouldn’t have to worry about doing dishes on Sunday.

But to go back to the stock market, I have been coasting on luck and I fear that soon I am going to make a bad deal in it and end up in trouble. One thing I do know is that over this past week I had bought a stock that turned out to be a lot more volatile than it seemed it would be. I bought it at $1.76. While I taught a class over my computer, I was checking the stock in my breaks. It went so low I almost wanted to pause the class so I could sell it. But I held on, and by the end of the day the stock had regained all its losses. I could have been just a little more patient and turned a profit, but I has glad to get out unscathed. What I couldn’t believe was all the pressure and risk I was taking with a volatile stock. Once again though, this anxiety and fear from risking large amounts of money causes neurotransmitters to work double time. There are so many more negative things about getting involved in stocks when the simple truth is that you are more likely to do well running a family business and investing in a home than by thinking you can beat other traders who are just about as devious and shark-like as anyone can get. And if you let yourself become addicted to the experience, you will keep coming back for more punishment.

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)

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leif Gregersen

Sick and Tired of Covid Stories? Let’s Talk Depression!!

There is so many horrible things going on in the world, I think the picture above will help remind us that even though it is the darkest day of the year, we can see the bright side, like how each day from here on in (for us in the Northern Climes) is going to get sunnier and longer, and that summer is just a heartbeat away.

I sat down yesterday and tried to talk a little about depression and what it is doing to me and likely talked more about the pandemic than even I wanted to. I did that because it seems that the isolation and boredom I face daily in our situation seems to be causing my depression. I think a large part of that has to do with the amount of sunlight I have been getting. We get really short days here where I live this time of year and it has often been overcast, not to mention that I have been unable to get out much.

Getting sunlight is essential to good health and wellbeing, anyone that doesn’t know it already should be taking vitamin D to replace what you aren’t getting. They are cheap enough, and come in very small pills. Three or four thousand IU’s (international units) per day in three or four little pills can go a long way.

Then of course there is the question of exercise. Since I was a young kid, I have loved the water, and recently a full fitness facility was built near where I live. I enjoy nothing more than taking my snorkel and swimming for hours if I can, listening to nothing but the sound of my own breathing. It is so invigorating and relaxing, and I kind of like sitting in the hot tub as well. I knew a psychologist as a friend who told me that exercise is such an important part of who we are as human beings. Feeling like my muscles were disappearing and getting weak and sore with just basic household duties, I have been starting to do more with my upper body. I wasn’t doing too bad with my legs, I like to walk long distance, which can be the perfect thing to do when everything is shut down, for lease, boarded up and abandoned. Walking is amazing, it is my personal form of meditation but as I have advanced in distances walked, I have often slacked off a bit on my upper body. Being too weak and overweight to do push-ups or chin-ups of any significant amount, I have been using what used to be called ‘dynamic tension’. What I do is tense my muscles, and instead of using weight to offer resistance, I use other muscles. Part of it I knew for a while, part of it I learned from a friend who knew of a famous bodybuilder who did no abdominal workout, he just tensed his abdominal muscles while doing all of his weight training. It is so important to find ways to exercise, and if you could somehow do it outside, all the better. Are there outdoor rinks where you live? Can you join a local soccer team (I mention this because soccer is a very low-cost sport compared to say, football.) There is more to exercising than just looking better, there are a lot of bonuses, like better balance, better cognitive functioning, and making new friends.

Making friends can be hard, but the best place for most people to start when they are dealing with a mental illness is an organization that either serves people with general mental illnesses, or specific ones that relate to your diagnosis, such as the Schizophrenia Society or a Bipolar support organization.

One of the ways I have found to stretch my meagre grocery budget and get out is to get up early, take my meds, and instead of going back to sleep, three times a week I put on a backpack and walk to the discount store 4km away.

But, all that aside, I am still pretty down. A year ago things really seemed to be going well with a close female friend and I, and then it all fell out from under me. It is so hard to meet new people or interact with old friends when you have to wear masks and worry about a horrible disease. I have been trying to compensate by using the phone a lot, but there are other things, like using zoom to call family in other countries or taking online skills training so when covid ends (if it ever does!) you can look at going back to a better type of volunteer or paid job.

I hope this blog helps someone out there, please comment or like if you feel it was relevant.

Leif Gregersen

Sacrificing For Those We Love: It’s About Our Mental Illness and Their Caring

Some of you may have heard me talk before about my dad. When I had the worst hospital admission of my life, he was there for me. He would drive all the way to my apartment, across town, and then we would drive to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long and soothing walk. He did this with me for a very long time until I was fit enough and well enough to go places on my own. Just that little bit of company and that little bit of exercise was enough to put me through a powerful transformation, recovering almost 100% from my hospital stay.

Then, yesterday, it was time to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I can’t help but notice he seems a little shorter, a little more helpless, but no less funny and kind and lovable. He was turning 83.

I think my dad somehow understands that he isn’t going to be around forever. I don’t think he ever imagined me, the youngest, would be taking him out for supper near my 50th birthday, but he is starting to understand. It is getting harder for him to concentrate, he forgets things more and more. There will be a time some day soon we will have to look for a place for him to live that has more care.

Something that is very important to remember is something that a young woman who was studying social work told me a long time ago: “The worst thing you can do is use your illness as an excuse.” I think, for me anyway, that being the best writer, best son, best friend, best brother, and all of those things are extremely important. Sadly though, there was a time in my life that I didn’t live up to what was expected of me on these counts, and I lost friends and girlfriends, and I almost made my family sick of me.

I think it can be a good idea to find someone, be they an actual family member, or even a fictional character on TV that you admire and use them as a foundation for how to treat your loved ones. Now, all that is good, but there are some things a person can do that will almost guarantee they will have good friends and that they will be close with family members.

  1. Be able to listen just as much as you talk, and even try and talk less to your friend or loved one than they speak to you. Listening skills have to be cultivated, and it is so important to give each person the ear they deserve.
  2. If you can’t work full-time, try and work casual or part-time. Be careful with your money but not cheap. This seems like an irrelevant point, but the truth is that if you never have any money of your own and you end up making friends or family members pay for you, they will want to have less and less to do with you. A little money is also good for things you may want like a second hand mountain bike or other wish items
  3. Having a job (or even a volunteer job) pays back in a few ways, it will make you a more interesting person. Who wants to hear the run-down of the latest TV shows each time you meet up with them? Volunteering is also a great way of building skills for a future job that may be just what you dreamed of.
  4. Keep drinking or drug use to an absolute minimum, and if you smoke or vape, do your best to stop. Doing these things will increase your worth in the eyes of your friends and loved ones (unless you currently hang with the ‘wrong’ crowd, which I suggest you work on changing). If you moderate and quit these things, so many barriers come down for you, and you will definitely have more pocket money. With the price and danger of smoking tobacco or vaping, quitting is almost a no-brainer, but I want to emphasize you can’t get feeling better or be in a better financial situation than you will be in if you stop smoking.
  5. If you are able to stop smoking or vaping, and you are not physically disabled, getting involved with sports can be a great thing to do. I personally have osteo-arthritis in my knees and I have a few health issues from torn cartilage in my feet to a thick head, and I am still able to walk long distances and to go swimming. Doing these things not only opens a new world to me in things to do, it has allowed me to meet and get close to some pretty wonderful people.

Well, that is about it for today, I hope you got something from all that writing. I think I could close in saying one of my favourite modern phrases:

Use things and love people. It never works out the other way around.