friendship

Overcoming Suicidal (and other negative) Thoughts

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

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 All I know is that I was isolated, unpublished, and I thought unwanted.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What About Friendships?

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some of you may have seen this picture before–I am having upload problems with my wordpress account.  Still a nice little summer-ish image.

 

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry, and don’t forget to check out my eBook “Inching Back To Sane” for just $3.25 US at www.smashwords.com  (link will take you to my book’s page)

 

Far Too Many To Name Here

 

On the days when my life has some meaning

On the nights when I don’t have to pretend

I can lay writing poems and dreaming

About times spent with you my dear friend

 

The people I share this brief life with

Are so precious and dear to my heart

Each moment spent with a friend or a loved one

Make me wish friends never had to depart

 

There were friends from my youth that threw parties

And when older girlfriends would often stop by

But the dear friends who truly lasted the longest

Were the ones with whom I could love, laugh and cry

 

Sharing good times and bad added with some real caring

Good friends can be family, loved ones or those we just met

What matters is that friends are all about sharing

When their friend is happy or sad or upset

 

Life takes a toll on all as it passes by us

Living each day means dying just a little too

But when I’m gone I don’t want people to fuss

It wasn’t so bad; I had a good friend in you

 

 

February 22, 2016

Leif Gregersen

     Good day dear Readers!  Well, it has been a fair while since I made a blog entry.  I have been feeling a bit stressed out (in fact I was so stressed out I made a video about stress using some of the information I learned from researching stress!)  There is a lot of info out there about stress, some of it good, some of it bad.  Of course there is this Kelly McGonigal who quotes studies that it is your attitude towards stress, not stress itself that makes it good or bad.  I am not really sure, I just kind of felt like I hit a wall at one point shortly after finishing compiling a short story collection a little while ago.  I took a few days and literally did nothing.  I didn’t work out, I didn’t go for any walks, I just curled up and hid from the world which I don’t think is the best thing you could do.  I was having a lot of trouble sleeping–most likely because I wasn’t exercising enough to tire myself out or need to repair my body with sleep, but I had little to do so I tried some different methods, one of them some over the counter sleeping pills, another a prescribed anxiety medication called rivotril or clonazepam.  I also tried melatonin, all of them but the over the counter pill in moderation with consent of my Doctor.  I am going to see my Psychiatrist tomorrow and talk to him about the sleeping pills then, but I am reluctant to have him prescribe me something because I really hate to get dependent or tolerant to any kind of medication that isn’t absolutely neccessary to my mental health.  I also had a man with a Master’s Degree in social work tell me that a Doctor advised him that using sleeping pills can result in memory loss, so that too is a factor.  It sure is funny getting older.  My eyes are starting to go, it takes me longer to recover from workouts and it is so easy to get out of a good routine.  Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little about friendships, so here goes:

Some of the first and most important friendships I made when I was first diagnosed as mentally ill was with other people in the hospital.  I found this was very difficult with women or gay males because, them being sick as well they confused a lot of things with sexual overtures and possibly had enhanced ideas of their own attractiveness (as I did myself.)  Although some hospitals, some nurses and some psychiatrists seem to be against it, I think it is extremely important to have someone to talk to and pal around with in the hospital.  I can see how not having any friends could make things unbearable.  Then there is another thing aside from the attractiveness thing, the last time I was in the hospital 15 years ago I mistook a woman who was there for a woman I knew and despite the fact that she was married I pursued a relationship with her.  I was kind of surprised that I was able to succeed at this effort, before she left the ward I was on she actually referred to me as her ‘boyfriend’ while she had been quite hostile and suspicious before that.  It was very troubling though because as we got to be good friends the staff was doing everything to keep us away from each other.  What bothered me was not so much the policy, it was that it seemed to come down to the opinion of one nurse that she simply didn’t want us associating even though we weren’t having any kind of sexual relationship.  Other staff had actually, almost under threat, encouraged socializing, but I don’t want to get into that.

When you get out of the hospital, you go into another phase of needing to make friends.  For me, for a good while my only friend was my Dad.  He would come down to the place I was living, pick me up and take me for a walk in Edmonton’s stunning river valley almost every day and it was simply wonderful.  A little fresh air and exercise, some good conversation and a chance to re-establish a bond with a family member was so therapeutic.  But eventually a person has to have more friends, in my case not only because my dad was getting older and had troubles driving, but also because I was putting a lot of demands on his time.  A lot of times friends were simply people who lived in whatever housing I was in.  This can be a real problem if you are in an unsupervised group home or residence for people with psychiatric disabilities and either there is no staff or the staff don’t watch out for their clients.  A young man at a house I rented a room in was literally a sociopath.  Many many times I got up at odd hours to help him, drive him home from work in the middle of the night, buy him meals, lend him money, lend him food.  The list went on and on.  Then one day I woke up late for work and was really hungry and here he had gotten drunk and left a cold pizza out on a counter ready for the flies to get at.  I grabbed two pieces of the pizza thinking I would pay him back later and found out when I came home that he had called the police and tried to press charges on me for eating the pizza.  I moved out of there (after another incident that I will relate another time) and into a five unit apartment house.  The ‘caretaker’ (he called himself the landlord though he didn’t own the place and didn’t even get a free suite for his ‘work’) was off his rocker.  He seemed normal enough, but was a real jerk.  I got to be good friends with him too, and all these strange things kept happening, and he had a habit of showing up and giving me orders as to how to keep my suite, what I was allowed to do and all that.  Then one day I came home and here he was just leaving my apartment with a smile on his face as he locked the door with his own key.  I was gone pretty soon after that.

At that time, and before that, I had decided to try and rekindle old friendships that had been damaged when I last went into the hospital.  This was very difficult and even impossible in a lot of cases, but I managed to get back on good terms with an ex-girlfriend and we have had a very mutually beneficial relationship, I even have become friends with her other family members and done things.  I have no easy answers to making friends, but one thing I do know is that the more stability in your life, the better chance you have in making friends.  One of my best friends right now is actually quite a well known author.  He used to work as a writer-in-residence at the University and he liked my work and I liked his and we kept in touch and now we meet up quite often.  The important thing to learn from that situation is to have a creative outlet in your life.  It can be writing, it can be music, it can be pottery or Yoga, or even meditation.  If you have stability in your life and you have something that helps you get out of bed each day you will eventually make friends that you can count on.  I don’t want to scare anyone off making friends in a group home or other assisted living situation either, but I don’t think it is best to rely too much on this source either.

Well, that was a long one.  I should leave off at that.  It feels great to sit and just let the words flow.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and if anyone is interested, I have now posted my book “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords as an Ebook for just $3.25 US.  Have a great day!

Dear old dad:

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In The Wake of Halloween

DSC_0163                            Here’s a Little Friend Who Posed For Me At Hawrelak Park This Summer….

 

Well Dear Readers, I regret that I haven’t been keeping up with my blog entries, there really has been so much stuff going on in my life that I haven’t been up to the task mentally.  I have been doing a lot of presentations for the Schizophrenia Society which is very interesting work and rewarding in many ways.  What I mostly do for them is show a Power Point presentation and give a bit of a lecture on it as I go through.  It talks about a lot of things like famous people who had a mental illness, there is a video where Anderson Cooper from CNN participates in an experiment to replicate what it is like to hear voices.  Then I give a 15-minute speech I prepared about my own experiences.  I am kind of excited about this month because on the 19th of November I will be giving a talk to a lunch of faculty members at the University of Alberta.  So much has been going good for me, sometimes other people are a bit amazed at where I was at compared to what I have been doing.

It may seem a bit funny, but one of the most important things in my life right now is one of my friendships, with a friend who is an incredible author, an amazing storyteller and also a film producer and public speaker.  I first met him at the U of A writer in residence office and he has done so much for me and mentored my writing career and all kinds of stuff like that.  Sometimes it seems a bit funny at my age to value a person so highly, but this guy is really incredible and is one of the few people I have ever been really close to that didn’t seem to want to take advantage of me in some way.  He kind of inspired me to write the poem you will see at the bottom of this blog post, I hope you enjoy it.

A lot of things are on my mind.  The other day I went out to my home town of St.Albert and had dinner at the house of a friend I have known for a very long time.  We talked and talked about the people we grew up with, all the crazy stuff that used to go on and it was so amazing.  It is odd though because I am so used to isolating myself that I kind of decided to duck out early even though there really was no rush to go and I was having a great time.  Ever since I became mentally ill a lot of people except my oldest friends seemed to never invite me to their houses or seem to trust me much, but a lot of that is changing.  I not only went to see this old friend whose son is this amazing, cool little boy but we also hopped in her husband’s truck and went to visit her parents who I have always had so much respect for.  It was neat because the house they live in always used to be a great place to hang out, they had a pool table in the basement and her parents not only cared for her friends a lot and kept up with their lives, but they trusted them to use their house as party central.  I can recall this one incident when I went out with a different group of friends on New Year’s and got so drunk I couldn’t see straight then came back to St.Albert and ran into this young woman’s brother and somehow we ended up going to his house in my car and a bunch of us, girls included, curled up under blankets and watched an ‘R’ rated cartoon called “Fritz The Cat”.  I am so glad I don’t drink like that anymore but I miss those times when freedom and possibilities in life seemed endless.

Well dear readers, I don’t know much of what else to say except that I am working on another short story collection and possibly another poetry collection soon as well.  I am posting today’s poem below, as always anyone who reads this blog is totally free to email me with any questions or comments they may have, my email is still viking3082000@yahoo.com and I would love to hear from you.  Keep reaching for your dreams, keep setting goals for yourself and writing out plans and most of all keep being you.

 

Old Friends

 

Sometimes our lives can get so difficult

Make us wish we could just collapse and shout

Let out all our hopes, anxiety and fears

Lose ourselves in our self-pity and tears

 

In these times we long for friends to be close by our side

To talk; embrace them, to hell with our pride

Loving, dear friends can always do so much

With so few words; with a gentle touch

 

When friends are by your side in times of pain and doubt

It seems there is nothing that you and them can’t figure out

It can hurt when the passing years take things away

When true old friends have nothing left to say

 

Please don’t let your heart grow indifferent and cold

Because this is when one truly grows old

Hold tight those who have shared their lives with you

Hold tight to your close friends be they old or new

 

Some people have let things get in the way

Of those times of joy and bliss, of camaraderie and play

Don’t look down on those who are alone and sad

Think instead of how they must have been treated bad

 

Remember it is a noble thing to go the extra mile

Just to warm a lonely heart and make them smile

And know that if you show your kindness to them in a special way

Someone may do the same for you one dark and lonely day

 

 

Leif Gregersen

November 1, 2015

Some Say I’m Brilliant, I Just Want To Be Happy

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LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THIS NOW, JUST WANTED TO SEE AN IDYLLIC SHOT OF THE OPEN ROAD.

Well, I had a great day today.  I didn’t start the day off with a swim, which perhaps could have made it better, but I did get up on time and had a chance to speak on the phone with my very cool reporter friend who works for the St.Albert Gazette, my home town newspaper.  We went over some of the projects I’m working on and he was very kind to take note of my campaign to raise money to print and distribute a ‘mental health’ comic book.  I wrote this script you see for a comic and had it looked at by a person who does this sort of thing for a living, and he was impressed.  It is the story of a young man who ends up having mental health difficulties and nearly kills himself and goes in and out of treatment for his illness.  I wanted to do this project because I have a new job starting up soon where I will be going to schools and talking to young people about Bipolar and Schizophrenia and other mental health disorders and I want to be able to give them something they can relate to.  I have put a notice at http://www.gofundme.com/oneinfive1in5 asking those who want to help to donate until I reach my goal of $750.00.  It will take more than that, but that will help a great deal if I can get assistance.  Anyhow, my friend Scott Hayes from the Gazette is going to run the URL in the newspaper, which is kind of exciting.  I have had a lot of exciting news lately, I met with a woman who is going to connect me with a person who is writing a screenplay about Bipolar.  If it makes it to a movie, and I can be of help, I think I might be able to get work on the film as a creative consultant.  That’s all a long shot though, but I have to admit that I am greatly enjoying my life.  So, as my day progresses, I did the interview and then after supper I went to something called a “Story Slam” where you go and read a 5-minute story to an audience and random people judge your story and if you get enough points, you win a hatful of money ($180).  I didn’t win, but a number of people (not the number 0) told me I did well, and two people bought books off me for $20 each plus I won a new CD.  It was great really.  I won’t be performing another story there for two months, but I definitely want to make this a regular occurrence, I really liked the people I met and it was kind of cool to get up and read my story.  Tomorrow is going to be interesting, in the morning, a photographer from the Gazette is coming to take my picture and then at noon I am attending my first talk with regards to my new public speaking job and then the day finishes up with me attending an orientation session for work at 6:00pm.  The weather here in Edmonton is nice too, above freezing anyhow and all is well.  Check out today’s poem below the second photo of the day, below.

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HERE IS A SUNRISE PHOTO OF THE LAW COURTS IN SUMMER IN EDMONTON

 

All To Dust

 

A friend can often be the one to say

You change the world in such a special way

A true love can say you are the best

Don’t listen to the crap from all the rest

 

My friend I want to tell you that you are

Someone more than you think you are by far

I say these words to you because I care

This world was meant for you and I to share

 

In days gone by we talked of those we loved

And those among us who pushed us and shoved

There are people who only want to hate

Forget them now, leave them to their fate

 

We must love those who care and hold them close

Forget those jerks who only strut and pose

My friend my life, my world is in your hands

One day we shall realize all our plans

 

But first we must get past those childhood days

Perhaps this friendship is simply a phase

Because though we cling together right here

We can’t be friends forever I do fear

 

One day a lover will come to us both

Who we will join to with a special oath

Perhaps also children will come to us

With love that turns our friendships all to dust

 

It’s sad but true that this is how things work

Just don’t forget this new love has its perks

Because as childhood friendships fade away

New love will give new ways to laugh and play

 

We will walk in true happiness and peace

Love will give our hearts and minds a new lease

Think of me Christmas each year my friend

Always warm wishes I will still extend

 

Leif Gregersen

January 15, 2015