friendships

Mental Health During Times of Pandemic and Isolation

Right now, I know that a lot of people are hurting. My heart goes out to young people who are caught in a trap most of them don’t fully understand. I have a neighbour, a brilliant young man who is going to University while his family is taking on a work term from Denmark. He really is missing out on so many of the things that makes University such an enriching experience, from the sports to the interactions, parties, and many other activities. On the other end of the educational grid, elementary students are extremely tough to manage and so many parents are opting for home schooling.

What I feel is a little more relevant is how all this is affecting those who suffer from mental illness. A lot of us already isolate and now it is getting worse. The Canadian government has pledged a very small amount of extra support for people with disabilities but still aren’t being very clear about when or how they will be doing this. I really fear the possibility that this is going to go on for years more. When one figures the impact on not only our own wallets, but the government’s resources, and the economy’s resources, it seems that something will one day have to give.

I like to think of myself as a source of advice but in this case I really don’t know what to say. When you have a mental illness, first and foremost you need to get your medications right. If they aren’t, you are going to have to get after your psychiatrist (I now meet with my doctor only over the phone which isn’t nearly as good as in person) Once again I feel for my American readers who don’t have the resources I have access to in Canada. If I have serious issues, there is no question of getting in to see a doctor, I have numerous options available. I recently had a physical health problem and ended up using my health care number to contact a physician over the phone and get a. prescription called into my pharmacy. I put my mental health as my number one priority. Even if I lose my home and sleep in a garbage bin I will still take my medications and see my doctor, and follow his advice. I also feel it is so important to do all the research you can, and set up supports as much as possible. One thing I recommend for anyone is to join an organization like the Schizophrenia Society, and take all the free courses and take out all the library books you can about your illness. You can get through this, it just needs time, work, patience, and perseverance.

Next to my strong desire to take my medications, see my doctor and maintain a good diet with exercise, is very simply, my apartment. I had to wait a long time to get into this place, but it was well worth it. I now have a huge apartment (for my needs as a single disabled adult) and my rent is very low. One of the things I would strongly suggest to add to approaching the Schizophrenia Society is to join or start a group on Facebook for others who are in the same physical, mental, or financial situation you are in. The government plan to give money to people with disabilities in the province I live in is called Aish–Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped. There is a Facebook group just for those getting it and it helps me a great deal. I get to connect with people, I learn about new programs and subsidies, information about housing, and much more. One of the more recent things it has helped me with is getting my Internet bill lowered greatly under a new plan for people with disabilities. I now pay just $10 a month for Internet compared to $80. That $70 buys groceries, the odd 12-pack of diet cola, or whatever I need.

So, if you can find it, put your name on a list for subsidized or co-op housing as soon as you can. Every dollar you can save counts. I think it is kind of obvious to state, but it is also a really good time to look at habits. The cost of cigarettes in Canada has gone through the roof, along with gas and alcohol. I don’t want to demand anyone give these things up, but the way prices are, you may find if you do some calculating, that you could afford some stuff you really desire if you find help in putting aside your vices. Imagine taking a penny-pinchers trip to Hawaii or a train ride across Canada. These things are possible if you can manage to quit some of your habits and find a part-time job you can handle.

I do suggest that if a person is able, a part-time job is a great idea. I work on a casual basis for the Schizophrenia Society and also have a two-hour a week job as a computer tutor. Even this little bit of work feels stressful sometimes, but it has allowed me to get a lot of things and do a lot of things that would be impossible without them. Volunteering is an alternative that should be considered. If you volunteer, you pretty much pick what you want to do, and when you become good at it, there could be a paid job in it for you down the road.

The last topic I wanted to mention is entrepreneurship. I hope this is something that people with mental illnesses are free to do wherever this blog is read, but I am not sure. Entrepreneurship is when you make your own job. The simpler forms of it are collecting deposit bottles and asking for change. I heard of one guy who will stand out on the road and ask for change and one day out of the year-near Christmas, he can rake in $1,500.00. I don’t recommend this approach, but it is an example of something that can be done if there is a true need for funds, especially around Christmas when you want to buy family presents or have a large meal with guests.

There are many kinds of entrepreneurship. One of them is to do what I have done and write about your experiences and have a few copies printed to sell. You really have no idea who your story could help until you try. It can be a long process but extremely rewarding. One of the best places to start if you feel you are ready for a regular job, even if only part-time is to apply at Goodwill. They have a strong reputation of hiring disadvantaged people. I know one person who made enough after a lot of saving to buy a second-hand luxury car and a top rated motorcycle. Once again though, I have to remind you that none of this will matter if you aren’t taking care of your mental and physical health.

Something I have been a part of is putting together a collection of poetry. The first step in this journey is to get involved in local poetry events (or short stories but poetry can be simpler to put together) once you meet a few poets, get one or two to help you set up a contest and then canvass the businesses in your neighbourhood to donate prizes or funds to rent a space to hold the giveaway night. Put the word out that you are looking for poetry, and that there are prizes to be won, then make a simple zine with the poems in it and you can charge $5 or something after the contest is over for the books, and keep the profits. I did this twice, and I met a lot of people and I like to think gained a lot of respect from people in my community. Something that I have seen being done in many cities is for homeless or impoverished people to have things like a poetry zine or a newspaper that they can stand in the street and sell for a fixed price or donations. One many I knew that did this in a popular part of town often would come into a pool hall I went to with a wad of cash. Even if you make just a small amount of money you will feel you earned it and feel better about yourself, and have esteem in the community. These projects can take a lot of work, but there are people out there who want to help and volunteer to help. The important thing is to never take on more than you feel comfortable with. I have to make sacrifices often to get through the month on my 2-hour jobs, but as I’m nearing 50 I don’t mind so much not going out to a bar on the weekend and spending my time reading books I get from the library.

And so, dear readers, that concludes today’s blog. I wish you health and wealth and happiness. Feel free to write any time and suggest a topic for me to write on. My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

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

Alternative Recovery Strategies For Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Before I begin, I just wanted to remind my readers and new followers that my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” is free to download and share and can be gotten by clicking on the photo of the bridge with two towers to the right of this blog.    ——–>

 

                                               Tanya Behm, my incredible boss at the Schizophrenia Society

Let’s admit it–Covid-19 is on everyone’s mind these days. For those of us who have mental health issues, the isolation can be almost like a prison sentence. I know I am really having a hard time because I have a dear friend who I was starting to get to trust me more and realize more that I am a person before I am a mental illness, and because of social distancing and my friend’s need to take care of family members, we haven’t been able to get together in ages.

I would like to say though, that having this time to myself has really sparked some incredible creative spurts. I don’t know how many people who read this blog are writers themselves, but I am guessing there are a few, and I am also guessing that many others could benefit from using creative writing in fiction or non-fiction, or poetry. Something I have been doing is I already had a full set of the Twilight Zone videos, and I am going back through them to watch over. There is something sort of magical about those old Teleplays, one shot, one episode was all the writers had to grab people and shake them out of their boots. I also have been watching “The Outer Limits” on Netflix and sometimes the original Star Trek as well. The thing is, whether you are in space or in the backyard of the girl next door wondering why she suddenly grew an antennae, when you delve into the world of the imagination, you are getting out of your house if only for an hour.

Time in isolation is so difficult for people with schizophrenia and bipolar (and just about any other major disorder including depression and so on). It can become important to force yourself to do something. I used to keep my mind active by getting a book of variety puzzles at a magazine stand. I loved to solve logic problems, and decipher scrambled letters (anagrams I think but I’m not sure). And thanks to some kind souls, I also have some pencil crayons and an adult colouring book. Despite all the things I could be doing, sometimes I find it really helpful to just tune the world out and sit down and colour in some pretty flower patterns or whatever. It becomes a way to leave my world without leaving. I even remember being in a very serious ward in the hospital and a young guy convincing me to sit down and draw a picture of a lion. We both got into the task and halfway through he said, “See, we’re no longer in a mental hospital.”

One of the best things I could recommend to people who read this blog who haven’t already done so is to start a blog of their own. It is possible to get a free or low-cost website as I did through WordPress. Mind cost me some to start up but then I found a free course from the Library that allowed me to use my own knowledge to maintain and update my website. Now what I do is take pictures as much as I can, then use the best ones to introduce a topic and share my experience. There is something very powerful about sharing your story with others. Those people often become close friends and share their own stories and before you know it a bond exists. This is why support groups an 12-step groups are so effective, the main thing they do is share their stories of what life was like before they recovered, how they recovered and how their lives are better now.

So, if you get a blog, keep a journal. Write down ideas that come to you of things to write about that week or that period you want a new blog to come out. Use your story, and do some research on what has worked on that topic for others. There are so many formats to choose from, one that has always interested me but I never explored was to have an advice website where people write to you and ask questions and you answer them (of course anyone who does want to ask me something they want to see here, feel free to contact me at my email: viking3082000@yahoo.com) then you can try to add posts on a regular basis, and the world will soon open up a door for you. I had so many opportunities stemming from this website, from being hired as a managing editor of two online mental health magazines to simply growing a following of over 600 people. But writing can do so much more for a person, even if they never publish a thing,

Most psychiatrists will recommend to a patient that they keep a journal just as I do to my students (I teach creative writing at a local psychiatric hospital). This has power because a journal can become a friend you can talk to about anything. You may be ashamed to admit that teenagers upset you when you first leave the house in the morning and see them smoking and hear them laughing, but you can always express these feelings in your journal. Once saved, you might one day be able to go back over that journal and possibly get an idea of writing a short story about a man who gets taunted by teenagers but is in fact a scientist who shrinks them down to tiny size to teach them a lesson. As you keep writing things like short stories or poems, these kinds of ideas will come to you.

Something else I have as a hobby is model building. I love to assemble tiny reproductions of airplanes from famous battles. This sort of thing takes time, energy, and concentration, and when you are done you can get a bit of wire and hang your creation from your ceiling to show it off. Really anything that engages you is great.

This is the point of my blog where I usually start talking about going to the gym and the pool. But in Edmonton where I live, all pools and gyms are shut down. I have been trying to take up the slack in my exercise routine by walking long distances. Sometimes I will make an excuse to visit my dad or a store on another side of town and then walk all the way back, even if it adds up to ten miles or more. There is something so empowering about the rhythm of each step, the feel of sun on your face and being able to breathe fresh air. I have learned to make my own mask to wear by watching the below video:

Surgeon General Shows How to Make Face Mask

I would actually like to see face masks become mandatory, but, along with social distancing, they are the best way to prevent the spread of this deadly virus we have going around. What I do also do when I go out for my long walks is I take routes where there are few if any people on the sidewalk. Long-distance walking can become tiresome and time consuming, but if you have no other way to exercise, it can be a lifeline.

It is also important to keep your strength going, the way I have been able to do this without going to the gym is buy purchasing a couple of ten pound dumbbells and doing twenty or thirty repetitions of a circuit of lifts, and then adding in some push-ups and even using a chair to use ‘dips’ to strengthen my arm. I have also found it useful to shadow box using my coats as a punching bag. Once again, anything that pushes your limits, engages you, makes you feel healthy is going to make your life easier.

With just a quick Internet search, I found a few resources on something else that could be helpful, online resources, information, and support groups for people with Schizophrenia. The website is at:

Please click here for more information

I encourage you to try this one and look deeper. And please come back and share your experiences with me, I would love to hear from you. In the mean time, please download my eBook “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the Tower Bridge and let me know what you think of it!

Best,

Leif Gregersen

SOCIETY’S MAGIC TRICKS ON THE MENTALLY ILL AND HOW OTHERS SEE THEM

always seek an elder’s wisdom! and if you like this blog, please feel free to download a copy of my latest book, Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis, just by clicking the photo of the bridge at right

 

There are a lot of ways society has tried to make many things seem like magic or sorcery. It is interesting to note that magic and sorcery were mentioned in the bible. My own way of explaining that is that there were mind and mood altering substances far back in our history such as many forms of alcohol and drugs, and those that used them were thought to be practising sorcery. I wouldn’t be surprised that modern day pharmacy had its roots in the powders and elixirs that were once attributed to witches and warlocks. Even the milder drugs like pot change the way you look at things, it can disturb your concept not just of how you feel, but of how others perceive you. THC can in a way be a self-induced form of insanity for want of a better term.

Some years ago I found myself at a gathering at a bar on the edge of downtown Edmonton, and I was invited to a private room with the band afterwards. I wonder when I look back if there was something else in the joint that was passed around because I had a couple of small tokes and went totally loopy and paranoid. One of the things I did was to try and show off by taking the medications I was on and tossing them onto a coffee table. I mistakenly was thinking that people would know what drugs I was on and want to try some of them to add to their high. I also went into someone’s room and borrowed the phone and left a half-hour long message to my ex-girlfriend, who was living with her boyfriend at the time and when I returned I was so convinced that everyone in the room wanted to kill me that I climbed out the window and down the fire escape then walked about 3 miles home instead of waiting to share a cab home. It is experiences like these that often get people confused about pot and other drugs, (alcohol included) I know of a few people who swore by the medicinal properties of cannabis. One of them had MS and had actually gotten a letter from a politician allowing him to smoke it (before it was made legal). I just heard of a young woman I have known for quite a few years having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and treating it with pot as well.

I am also fond of relating the story of mid-20th century psychiatry and drugs like LSD. Psychiatrists were encouraged to take LSD so they could better understand their patients who had delusions and hallucinations. The father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Frued was known to liberally prescribe cocaine to his patients. I don’t know how bad these situations got, but I do know in both cases that once the drug was no longer available in these ways (legal prescription, etc) a lot of psychiatric patients had a very hard time managing.

There are so many things that we are told to take on faith that we see with rose-colored glasses that they are no less than magic. A new car is promoted as more reliable than any car ever, with more power at better fuel economy. People get tricked into thinking they can buy this car with all their savings and never have to buy another car or even be outperformed by a newer car. The sad reality of planned obsolescence, proven time and again (just look at 40 year-old cars and how much they have rusted or broken down) that once were touted to be just as “magic” as the cars of today. Marketing does this to us a lot, whether it comes from a billboard or a review or a commercial.

One of the problems living in a society with this kind of “magic” is that money and ambition are encouraged. Work harder, buy more, feel better, get more work done, work more efficiently, rise in your organization, get more stuff. Die rich. Something I have been learning since my mid-forties is that how much stuff I have has very little to do with my happiness. My happiness has so much more to do with personal recognition from friends and family, and yes, even some of the people who follow my work. I got interested in the teaching of Marie Kondo and some other Minimalists and I have truly found that it is so much better to have one working computer than five older crappy ones. It is so much better to have three sets of clothes and a couple extra t-shirts and work shirts than to own more clothes than I can keep up with washing and finding a place for.  Two hundred books and ten thousand comic books seem to be a wonderful thing, but if I can never read any of them because they are poorly organized, scattered around, and drowning in each other, the truth is I am much better off with just having one or two books that I read and then donate or trade in at a used bookstore, and also taking advantage of the library system. Having fewer possessions has made my living conditions better, allowed me to work more efficiently and not feel overwhelmed all the time with a messy house, dirty dishes, and paper and stuff all over. I have a long way to go with downsizing my possessions, but if a person can look at something they own and really think hard about whether or not this thing truly makes them happy, and then makes a hard decision to sell it or donate it or clean it and organize it properly so you can get use out of it, they are going to feel so much better all over and get so much more done.

This Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) method really is magic. Marie also has a regular show on Netflix where she goes into people’s homes and transforms them. The greatest thing is that she doesn’t get people to pay someone to clean, which rarely if ever has lasting results, she teaches them how to organize, tidy, dispose of unneeded things that they may have an emotional attachment to. Once you do this for someone, you don’t just clean their house, you change their life.

One has to become a critical thinker I believe to be able to function without being brought into some of the traps out there that destroy so many people’s lives. When I was 14 I started smoking and it took away my money, my health, and it made me become ostracized by a lot of friends. There really was no magic in smoking other than the part where you satisfy your craving for nicotine and for a short time you feel good. I will never forget the day at the end of my grade 10 year that (thanks to stuffing off, starting to drink alcohol, and to a great extent to smoking cigarettes) I went from class to class to get my final grades and I failed more than 50% of them. I was devastated. I have to say though, a person raising kids should keep as much of a watchful eye on them around the age of 15. I don’t blame my parents, but both of them smoked and my dad drank and both of them allowed me to smoke and drink, and school, which was most important to me, and then Air Cadets, which came in a close second were screwed up beyond salvation. I never did end up going to University as a result of my poor showing in grade 10. Something I have found out though is that to this day almost half of all cigarette sales are to people with mental illnesses and the tobacco companies know it.

Probably one of the most important things that should be impressed upon the impressionable is to make goals. Goals are so powerful. Goals get you moving in a direction rather than a person just moving and not knowing where they will end up. I think it saved my life to decide from a young age that no matter what I would do, I would end up a writer. If I had a clearer idea of how to do that, had written out my goals, and applied some simple logic, I could have thrived at school and done what I most wanted much earlier in my life. I have heard that when a young person has at least one positive influence in their life outside their family, they are so much more likely to not have drug, alcohol or other problems. This is why programs like big brother/big sister are so amazing. The real magic in our world doesn’t come from fast cars or smooth whiskey, cold beer or satisfying cigarettes, it comes from our love, respect and caring for each other.

I hope some of this at least makes sense, I know I tend to just blurt out my writings in my blogs sometimes, but I really hope to reach people with what I say. That will be my last point. One of the best things a person can do with big decisions is to seek out advice. I have been so lucky to have my dad in my life who is a very experienced and intelligent man and whenever the smallest or biggest thing happens I can count on him. There are others though, my sister is very smart too, and I have a friend up the road who is older and very kind and intelligent who I seek out for advice. The trick is to weigh carefully how good the person will be at giving advice. If you want advice on buying a car, talk to a certified mechanic (and always get one to look at a used car before you buy it) not someone who just uses a car. If you want advice about saving money, look for classes where you can learn from people that don’t get a percentage from what you invest, but instead are highly qualified and knowledgeable about a person’s needs and capabilities. Thanks to everyone for reading all this, please contact me or comment if you have questions, as always my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

A Tightly Woven Web of Mental Illness and Mental Health

Hello Good People! If you have any need of gifts for Mother’s Day, or wanted to have a look at another blog, I have partnered up with another blog website called Dear Ava. Visit them here: https://dearava.com

I know most of you would like to get into the meat of my blog, but I wanted to mention a couple of things. First of all, there is a photo on the right hand column of this blog —————————>                                         and if you click on it, you can download a free copy of my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” Those of you that read and enjoy this book could really help me out by doing one of two things: one is to write a review of it for amazon, and the other is to consider becoming my Patreon sponsor. The reason I am asking people to pledge me money is because I am switching to offering my work for free or at very low cost because I decided it is more important to help others and reach as many people as I can than to get rich, but still I have expenses to meet, so I am asking those who can afford it to visit my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/leifg and consider sponsoring me for $5 to $8 a month. For those that do sponsor me, I will regularly send new content I create, such as short stories and poems, and have special offers open only to those who are able to sponsor me. Now for the blog at last!


So, I have been thinking a fair bit about something. The first and most prevalent thing going through my head is that right now I am extremely sane. I don’t know if anyone out there has had the opportunity to take a WRAP course (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) but part of what they teach about is to try and get to know your illness or addiction. As you get to know it, you start to look for signs that first of all you may be having a stressful day and then writing out different coping strategies you have to help you get through it. Then you go to the next level and you try to be aware of when you are sliding into the danger zone of your addiction or mental health problem (this is not accurate of course, but I would encourage others to look up and read up about WRAP on their own and definitely consider taking the course, and if you have a mental health issue it isn’t a bad idea at all to download the app from Google or The Apple Store and fill out all the information so you have all of your personal coping tools written out for yourself) there is more, which I will try to explain in a moment, but something I have been learning to do lately is simply to be able to tell when I am falling asleep. I don’t know how many others have the same problem I do, I know insomnia is a curse of people who aren’t working and take medications. My problem is that unless I take something to help me sleep I will only sleep 1-2 hours at a time, then feel the extreme need to have a snack before trying to go back to sleep. This packs on the pounds in no time and I have been struggling not just with not feeling rested during the day, but also with gaining far too much weight to be healthy. I have even been diagnosed now with diabetes, and having a heck of a time lowering my weight to improve the condition.

Anyhow, to get back to the indications that I’m asleep, it often takes me a fair while to fall asleep, and I have to lie down stone still for quite a while. I try to notice when my thoughts become garbled and when I am thinking of things that don’t make sense. This is when I know it is time to sign off and try and rest as much as I can. This method is also extremely useful, along with tools given me by taking the WRAP course, in keeping a close eye on my sanity in general. At one point I made an actual list, but over time I have been just keeping the list of indicators I may be having a ‘breakdown’ in my head. One of the most serious ones is when I am being paranoid. Last time I got sick, I became deathly afraid that the people in the apartment next door to me could hear all I did and were angry at me and literally wanted to kill me because of the noise I was making. I started tip-toeing around the apartment, opening my cabinet drawers with extreme care and caution. This is an extreme thing, but I have now tried to become more aware of when I have rational fears and when I have irrational ones.

The next thing that will indicate to me that I am near the point of needing help is when I start to think that there are people from my past who still want to help me become rich or own great things, or even marry a certain person I went to school with many years ago. Thinking about this one person at all is distressing, but when I start to think that she is contacting me, which she would never do (this person is happily married and wants nothing to do with me) then I know that I am in psychosis. The first thing I should do when this happens is to try and find a way to contact my doctor and see about being checked in to a psychiatric ward or psychiatric hospital.

What is truly great is that right now I feel very comfortable in my own home, I don’t worry at all about my neighbours, and I even have a close female friend who has made me totally forget about this girl from my past. At one point I was thinking about her so much I actually approached my doctor with the concern that I was a stalker. It was good to hear from him that if I were a stalker I wouldn’t be telling him about these things though he couldn’t do much to help my unhealthy thoughts about this person. Again another positive thing is that I have never gone out of my way even slightly to see her or approach her and I really don’t want to.

One of the greatest things about literature, and about being a writer is that you can play with and explore things that haven’t quite happened. Yesterday I found myself writing out a story about a middle aged man who was obsessed with a woman to a point of comparing every female he saw to her, and as the story progressed, he met a young woman online who he actually thought was the person he was obsessed with conspiring to finally fall in love with him. I would just love to be able to put this story here on the blog, but the truth is that if I did, it would mean that in the eyes of publishers, this story was published and it would significantly decrease the value of it. If anyone really does want to read it, and take advantage of more creative content from me, I encourage you to become a Patreon sponsor, it would do so much to help me get my work to a public that it can really help a lot. Once again, my Patreon profile can be found at https://patreon.com/leifg there is no obligation to do this though, and if you can’t or don’t want to sponsor me, you will still get this blog and you can still download and share my book all you want. Take care dear readers, and for those who are able, I thank you for your support!

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.

 

The Long and Lonely Journey of a Writer With a Mental Illness

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Please Click This text to download my new book in eBook format

Good day to all my readers and beloved fans! After long months of typing away and scanning, taking photos, requesting documents and researching, I have completed my book “Alert and Oriented X3: A Snapshot of a Psychosis”

I have had so much success in this past year getting work as a creative writing teacher, selling my other books when I give talks for various organizations, that I simply don’t see any need to try and make a few bucks off something that I really enjoyed doing, and that so many people could benefit from. So I am freely distributing the eBook to “Alert and Oriented X3” to anyone who wishes a copy, and I am also encouraging all concerned to make as many copies digital or otherwise that they like and share it freely.

It is in times like this that I like to think of some of the wonderful people that have helped me along through my recovery journey. Near the top of the list is my boss at the Schizophrenia Society, Tanya Behm. Tanya not only allows me to sell my books when I give presentations, she gets up and promotes them for me when we work together. Next on my list is my dad, who I have sneaking suspicions of being a writer himself. My mom had told me when he was younger he had submitted some things and didn’t have any luck and so stopped doing so. I really feel this is a shame because my dad is so intelligent when it comes to reading and writing that I come to him for all kinds of advice, and I often have him proof read my short stories.

The list goes on and on, there is Caroline, who is tied in first place to be my best friend with bestselling author Richard Van Camp. Both of them accept me with all my quirks and oddities and both of them have been extremely kind and supportive.

Next on the list but by no means any less of a dear friend than any other is Charity Slobod. Charity is an incredible young woman who works in professional development and has a master’s degree as well. Charity was just about the only thing that kept me going while I was experiencing the 30-day hospital stay I had last year that this book is written about.

My brother Kris and my sister Michelle are way up there in my cheering section, being kind enough to help proof-read, offered suggestions, and always had their doors open for me when needed.

It has been such a long journey. I started writing possibly because of the isolation I experienced when first diagnosed. This had a lot to do with the stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness. After being alone and extremely bored for long months, I returned to school in hopes of finishing my high school diploma and attending University. It was there that I met Caroline, who has been such a dear friend ever since. (that was almost 30 years ago). We have both had our trials and difficult times, but no one can make me laugh like Caroline can. She sort of rescued me from being borderline suicidal all those years ago and I love her for it.

There were times when I would sit and do nothing but write and write all day. Soon after I started writing I fell into the trap of vanity presses, but still had no money to give them. I published a few poems, tried to attend church and did actually make some awesome friends like Jade Holownia and his wife Brandy.

Living on my own, there were times when I became so lonely that I reached out for anyone to ease my pain. That led me into serious troubles having street people try and take over my apartment. I tried so hard back then to return to a normal life, get a job, finish school. But it seemed so impossibly hard while I was in a poor state of mental health and taking medications that took a toll on me as well.

Still, somehow I felt that I needed to keep writing, and I paid a lot of money to have my first book edited but couldn’t find a publisher. I ended up self-publishing and with a great deal of determination and hard work, started to sell my first few copies. It is hard to say where the real turning point came. I had been writing short stories but not sending them out, and I met a man who most would call a grump, but for some reason he treated me extremely well. One day I found out he had gone to Journalism school and I asked him how I could get into magazine writing. In just two minutes he explained the whole thing to me and that year I think I published and was paid for about 5 articles in major publications.

It all seems like such a blur, but I do really want to thank Charity again because when I met her, I was at the point of having done a lot of things, but not having any major success. Charity not only helped me so much with my work, but she was so much fun to talk to and do various things with that, along with the Schizophrenia Society work I was doing, plus the odd workshop and class, she gave me a life that was worth living.

Sorry for just prattling on, I feel I have reached a major milestone in my writing. A good friend who contacts me on Facebook is an incredibly accomplished poet, among the top poets in Canada and he is also a professor of creative writing at a local university, just told me that I am “A Great Memoirist, truly great.” I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me to hear that. Writers get so much negative feedback, and it is a lifelong struggle for most to find any kind of success, and all at once with the words of a friend, I have arrived at the point I have wanted to be at since my days in elementary school when I wrote and illustrated my own comic books. In those days, my parents kept our house full of all the greatest books and authors, and each day a few times a day I would pass by a shelf with books loaded down on it by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, just to mention a few. I thought to myself that if I could ever write a really good book or two, I could in some way become immortal like these writers. And now, as I sit typing, with no thought at all of slowing down, I am left with a very satisfying and happy glow that whatever happens next in my life is a footnote, I have done something incredible. I want all of you to share in this feeling so please download and copy and give away as many eBooks as you can dear readers! I think the link above will allow you to do that, if you find you can’t download it that way, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will email you one free of charge.

Yours,

Leif Gregersen

New Book Exploring a Recent Psychiatric Ward Admission and a Month Battling Psychosis

Hello Dear Readers! Well, it is with great joy that I introduce to you my latest book, which tells of a recent hospital admission to an Edmonton Hospital in 2019. I had grand plans for this book, but I decided that it was more important to get it out to my readers and to those who suffer with or love someone that suffers with severe psychosis or other mental health difficulties. It is in this spirit that I have put the book up for sale on Amazon for only $12 in paperback and for the next couple of days the eBook is free. After the time when it is free, the eBook will be just $1.49.

The book is something that was inspired by the book “Girl, Interrupted” (not the movie, the book). I decided I wanted to really show the mind of a person who is ill, and so I took poetry I wrote by hand during my stay in the hospital and added commentary to it, as well as put in other poems I wrote at other times, then several essays, introductions from some family members and even copies of my clinical notes. The title, “Alert and Oriented X3” comes from a term that my nurse used several times to describe the state of my mental health in the clinical notes. There are 5 ways you can be ‘alert and oriented’ and I seemed to come up as just a 3 a number of times.

I have felt extremely blessed to have so much support from you my readers and my friends and family to write and to give talks about mental health in Universities and Training Centres that I really just want as many people as possible to enjoy the book regardless of cost to me. If you keep checking back, I may be able to put on some giveaways at this site and mail out some select copies in the hopes that you will leave a review for it on amazon.com. I will also be making the eBook free, and if you like it and recommend it, I have also decided not to set it up so it can’t be copied, so please feel free to share the file you purchase with anyone you know who would be interested.

One small drawback to the current form of the book is that I wrote it for people living in Edmonton and in Canada. Most of the book is completely relevant to anyone reading it anywhere, but there are small sections where I put in some contact details for local resources that will be irrelevant to most non-Canadians. If you would like to get in touch with resources for helping you through any kind of mental health struggle, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do the best I can. You can also contact me at this email if you would like a free digital copy of the book. Happy reading friends, looking forward to seeing what you think of the book which I had to go to hell and back to write.

Leif Gregersen

Guest Blog Touching on a Subject That Helped My Recovery From the Stigma of Mental Illness

https://dearava.com/blogs/news/the-art-of-personalized-gift-giving

Hello my good readers. Please click on the link above to have a look at a blog which relates to something I will be discussing below.
Hello Dear Readers, today I have a guest blog from someone who approached me after finding my blog. It is truly amazing some of the reach that I get when I put out these blogs, and I would like to encourage any of my regular or new readers to contact me. As always, you can comment here or write to me at viking3082000@yahoo.com
      One of the things that appealed to me about sharing this article is that I am a bit of a dysfunctional gift giver. When I like people, I buy them things all the time and give them to them without expecting anything in return. This is the positive side of my giving, but there can also be some negative parts of giving too much. The first thing that I realized after reading the article linked above and copied below is that in fact most people get so much more out of experiences than they do possessions. As something of a minimalist, I have tried to do this more and more. But as I make a reasonably good income for a bachelor I often find myself going too far with gifts. One clear example was when I had something of a crush on a woman at work and I would bring her things all the time. Nothing too serious, but I would get her a book or a magazine, trying to seem thoughtful. I think a lot of this had to do with my own insecurities, wanting to make sure she stayed my friend and stayed in my life. Not long after that, I met an incredible person, an author named Richard. He had family roots in the Northern Regions of Canada and also was an indigenous person. Every time I met with him he had a gift for me and I started to reciprocate. This was a very positive experience as we had many common interests and soon became practically best friends as we met for lunch and did different author events together. He has even been so incredibly generous that he had me invited to a Writer’s Festival called Northwords in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and it is a huge chance for me to advance my career. I would call this friendship with Richard healthy as compared to the young woman I knew at work, possibly because there was a lot more equality. I got some good advice once that basically stated that friends had to be equal in paying for things regardless of their income.
     I do a lot of gift giving, especially with my family. A lot of it started with an amazing little book that was recommended to me called “The Richest Man in Babylon.” The book did talk about accumulating wealth, but it also clearly emphasized how Important it is to treat your family well and get them the things they need.
     Well, dear readers, I don’t want to go on too much as the article I am posting below and have linked above is very complete. I basically wanted to tell a bit about how the subject of gift giving affects those with mental illnesses. Of course so many people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and other ailments have very little money. This is a good opportunity to look for a hobby that will not only keep you interested in your day to day activities, but perhaps also allow you to make gifts. My sister does a lot of bead work, a friend I knew for a long time found a lot of joy in making stained glass. You can even write a song or a poem for the person you know who you want to show appreciation to. I often take photos, have them printed for $2 or so, then get a $4 frame for them and give them as gifts. Have a great day all of you!

The Art of Personalized Gift Giving

We can all agree that gift giving isn’t easy. Everyone is unique, and has to develop their own philosophies on how to give meaningfully to friends, family, and loved ones. The pressure to find gifts that suit a person’s needs can be a source of stress, especially during the holidays. How do you develop a gift giving methodology that causes pleasure and joy, without the stress?

Although not everyone may agree with every idea in Marie Kondo’s hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we feel her philosophy on gift-giving is particularly insightful. For instance, she writes, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.”

The key concept here places more importance on the act of giving a gift more than simply the gift itself. Of course, if a gift is functional and the recipient requests one, the path is clear and simple. Most of the time, however, it’s not so straightforward. Perhaps with a significant other, you may be so familiar and close that gifting becomes second nature. But would about an aunt, uncle or niece? How do you show your appreciation for them if you don’t always see each other, or aren’t sure about their passions and interests? What about special occasions like a first communion, marriage, or graduation?

With all of the nuances that go into gift giving, each occasion and person are unique and require special attention. In this article, we’re here to help guide you on your path to establishing your very own Art of Personalized Gift Giving.

Long Term Happiness is Rooted in Experiences, Not Things. But Experiences Don’t Always Make the Best Gifts.

Certainly, you may have heard that experiences bring us greater joy than things. In fact, there’s significant research that shows this is a human truth. But how does this translate into gift-giving? It’s not so simple to “gift” someone a vacation, nor is it particularly practical. Imagine if your husband or wife wanted to go to Hawaii and you suddenly surprised him or her with an all-expenses paid trip to Maui, and “we’re leaving in 2 weeks!” That’s hardly enough time to react and reconcile each other’s busy work schedules. Simply put, experiences do bring us greater happiness, but experiences are no replacement for physical gifts. Physical gifts aren’t meant to replace experiences, but rather create and memorialize them, making them an essential and special part of our lives.

One workaround here is to use significant life experiences as the basis for the gift or as a means to commemorate an experience. For example, imagine a situation where you grew up with your best friend, staying together over the course of 20 years. Suddenly, they could get married and have to move to the other side of the country. You could give them a gift that truly represents your shared experiences together. Something that allows you to remember the experience and times you shared together.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Too Much Practicality

During the holidays of 2017 and 2018, the most popular kitchen accessory was the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. I personally use one of these on a daily basis (and I admit, I received one as a gift from my mother-in-law). It can be tempting to take something that you like since you had a positive experience with it and assume that it will make a good gift for someone else. This is a logical assumption to make.

However, the reason I suggest to be careful with this mindset is because: gift giving shouldn’t be about yourself. Gift giving shouldn’t be treated as an opportunity for you to shill the reasons about why it saved YOU so much time and money. I can hear the rant already starting: “This Instant Pot will save you countless hours in the kitchen! I don’t know how you could live without one! It was life changing for me!”

Perhaps the Instant Pot will truly be life changing for the recipient. Maybe they’ll even end up recommending it to their friends as well in a chain reaction of pressure cooking frenzy. But what if they are the type of person that doesn’t like to cook? What if they prefer their own methods of cooking and feel pressured to use the Instant Pot, even if they don’t want to? It will end up as simply taking up counter space for them.

The exception of this is if they explicitly ask for something like this. However, it’s wise to be mindful of gifts that are overly pragmatic, or based on your own experience rather than being personalized to the recipient’s true needs.

The Trap of Giving Gifts that are Too Expensive

Growing up, my best friend and I used to exchange gifts for Christmas (shoutout to her: we are still best friends to this day). We started off small with small cards, trinkets, and accessories. One year, I had decided to step things up. I knew she wanted a Tiffany necklace so I splurged and bought her one.

When she received it, she was so overwhelmed and happy about it! This made me incredibly happy too! After a few moments of elation she said: “this is too much, you REALLY shouldn’t have.

Fast forward a year, the next Christmas she ended up purchasing me jewelry from Cartier and I merely gave her a card and some home-baked pastries. Now, it made ME feel like I wasn’t worthy!

Looking back, what I ended up doing is elevate the monetary expectation of the gift. I made the pitfall of equating value of her friendship with a price tag, rather than focusing on our shared experiences together.

Luckily, we made a rule and set a price limit for every year going forward. This common practice among close friends and loved ones can be a fun and effective way to ensure that your gift giving experience stays positive and fun for all involved.

Personalization is the Ultimate Gift Giving Hack

How do we get around the many problems associated with gift giving? After countless Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, and more, I established that there’s no true way to solve for what ultimately makes for a good gift, which is personalization.

I went on a personalization binge a few years ago and started to go a bit overboard with this. I would shop only for handcrafted items on Etsy. I would create handwritten cards and painstakingly use my poor calligraphy skills to customize the gift.

Did it work? Absolutely. Was it incredibly stressful for me? Yes.

Finally, I realized that going overboard had the same consequences as when I was giving out the really expensive gifts. Instead of investing money, I was investing too much on my time.

Finding the right balance is ultimately the key to good gift giving. It’s up to you to develop the best personal gift giving philosophy for you and your loved ones.

Getting in Over Your Head When You Suffer From Bipolar, Depression, or Schizophrenia

There can be a lot of ways of getting in over your head when you have a mental illness, but I think when you have bipolar it can be the worst in many ways. I currently am very lucky, I have found a medication that allows me to have stabilized moods, and even more lucky because I have lived long enough to be able to make better choices in life. One of the simpler ways of getting in over my head was by making promises to my dear young niece. I love her so much and want to do nice things for her and a few years back I made a promise that I would take her to Disneyworld, which is still far out of my grasp of things I am able to do. I can recall promises being made to me that never panned out, many of them from a boyfriend my sister had for a number of years. When I was 14 and excited about getting my very own car one day he made a promise that when he was done with it, he would give me his car. What really got to me was that a couple of years down the road, he not only didn’t display any intention at all or apologies for not giving me the car, he actually humiliated me for expecting it. This instability in our family that often left me the target of jokes instead of kept promises left something of a large hole in my character that took a long time for me to resolve.

One of the worst ways a person can get into trouble when they have bipolar is when they get a credit card or. a line of credit. It seems so easy to project that in the future you will be more able to pay your debts and also think that you deserve some things now, before you are actually able to afford them. When I was 19, I met a guy who I became very good friends with in a short amount of time, and he convinced me that he was well off and that we should travel to California together. I actually had the time of my life going through the US and it often gave me the feeling that my life was really mine, not that of my parents or psychiatrists. Sadly I was being played for a fool and we got to his home town and he simply took off without repaying a cent and leaving me to make my way back to Canada without a cent to my name.

It isn’t nearly as difficult now, but one thing I remember clearly about my first years of being on regular medications was that the bipolar side of my schizoaffective disorder often left me unable to sleep, even though I was taking a heavy dose of pills every day and every night. I started to find that if I started out switching to a light rock radio station, then went to a classical music station, forced myself to not pace, just relax on my sofa as I did progressively calmer things, the medications I was taking became enough to get me to sleep.

Financial problems for a person with a mental illness are rife. It can become very hard to hold down or even just simply find a job that you can handle. I think for a lot of young adults though it is almost always very difficult to learn to manage money, and to even have a stable income. For people with mental health disabilities, I strongly recommend that you volunteer. I have a cousin who I think is really on top of things. He had a job that brought in a little money but he hated it. The job slowed down and he was laid off and so he simply picked out a senior’s activity centre and walked in and offered to volunteer. Not only is he learning many skills, but soon he is going to be hired on, something that can be very difficult to do in the current state of the economy. But most importantly is that his generosity with his time and effort got him into a situation where he will soon have a job that he truly enjoys.

I have a strong memory of being younger and going to a bipolar support group. I often talked about my grand ambitions but this one guy would talk over me and say that I had to learn to accept my low position in society and my lot in life. At the time that may have been good advice, but I didn’t stop working on my writing, I didn’t stop setting goals and learning new things about writing. And now my life is greatly enriched by my ability to write in different genres and to do something I found I really love, which is public speaking and teaching people about mental illness. There honestly were some times though when I was ready to give up. When I had a previous job setting up stages for concerts, the money was incredible but it was taking a huge toll on me. I really had to work hard and compete with the other workers around me to have good standing in my workplace. Finally I decided it was enough and so I wrote a letter to my dispatcher explaining my mental illness and the stress I had been experiencing as well as explaining how detrimental to my health that stress could be. Of course he accepted my resignation but there were some pretty lean times. I had gotten in over my head in that situation as well because I had come to rely on a considerable income from just a part-time job. I also really missed some of the friends I had made in the seven years of working for that union. I decided that I had to conceive of income differently. I stopped taking my dad out for lunch all the time, something I missed doing. I stopped taking trips to different places, especially the far off ones like London, England and Hawaii. I knuckled down and managed to stay out of debt though I did end up selling my car. Then, by studying and by doing talks for the Schizophrenia Society where I was able to market some of the books I have written, slowly I built up a reputation. I first did so with my camera, snagging a part-time job for a really good wage, then I studied and got deeper and deeper into writing. I think if anyone has a hobby that they truly love and that they are able to do despite having a mental illness, they should try and make it so they earn their living from it. A woman who lives downstairs from me is into beading and she makes a great income selling her lovely work at farmer’s markets and other places. Those who love to play the piano or guitar should take a few courses if needed and try to teach these things to others.

It can be really hard to work when you have a mental illness. I use a lot of different techniques to deal with the stress of teaching classes, giving talks and sending out my writing in hopes of having it published. One of the ways I improve as a speaker is I have found a forum for my shorter writing, I regularly go to something called a ‘story slam’ where people get up on a stage in front of a crowd, read a story that is no longer than 5 minutes, then they are judged and money is collected ($5 from each audience member) then the highest scorer of 10 storytellers gets the whole pot. I have won three times now, and it is really an incredible feeling. Most of the time though, I know I won’t win, but I keep doing it because it makes me more comfortable with public speaking. This may seem like an odd thing for a person who suffers from anxiety does, but it works for me and I am really glad to have been recognized as a good writer by winning the odd contest.

Working is less stressful than getting up on stage and reading a story, but that doesn’t mean work is easy for people with mental illnesses. I have dark memories of what it was like to work a job where I had to keep up with others and was on medication that gave a lot of side effects or I just wasn’t used to it. A storm rages inside your head and you just want to go home and hide your head and sleep the day away, but if you do this, soon you will be isolating yourself and that leads to loneliness, depression, and sadly for all too many people who are psychiatric survivors, they try to or succeed in a suicide attempt. This becomes such a vicious cycle where patients want to go in the hospital to ease the loneliness, and they go in, soon feel better because their life is full of interactions and people who seem to care, then they are released with no social supports.

Just in the past years I have come to realize how important it is to have close friends. Many who have read my memoirs may know that when I was in elementary school and junior high, I had few friends, and even those people weren’t terribly good friends. Friends are so important, they can cheer you up and do things with you even when you don’t have money. They can look out for you and you look out for them. I am faced with the sad fact that someone I sometimes call my best friend (my dad) is advanced in age and won’t be around forever. Each time I hang up the phone after talking with I try to say, “I love you dad” I am so worried that one day he may pass away not knowing that I do. I consider my brother and sister friends, but outside of my family I have some pretty cool people supporting me, from a fellow writer who helps me more than I could ever express, to a young woman who is so incredible I sometimes wonder why she hangs out with me, to a woman I have known for almost 30 years who lives out of town but gives me so much joy when I do see her or when I talk with her on the phone.

Another thing about how I keep myself sane is when I talk to my dad, my brother, and friends about decisions I make. A while back I really wanted to buy a new car and had money saved up but got a lot of support and interest from family and friends that didn’t want to see me saddled with debt.

So what do you do if you go overboard, if you spend too much, promise too much, don’t like your job? Always, your first line of defence is your medications. See your Doctor and make sure you are on medication that works for your symptoms and doesn’t leave you with unbearable side effects. Then, something I should have mentioned earlier, keep yourself as healthy as you can. Swim laps at the pool, take long walks (another great free thing to do with a friend). Exercise is a huge line of defence over letting stress get to you. When you do feel stressed, there is also the option to do a couple of things I do, which is to try to meditate, even if it is just for five or ten minutes before work when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Closing your eyes, focusing on nothing whatsoever can really make you feel better for a short time investment. Then there is something I have re-started doing recently, I take B vitamins. B vitamins are believed to be what gets depleted when we experience stress. I have found sometimes these give a sedative effect and I can actually take one of these vitamins and have a very pleasant and peaceful sleep. Speaking of sleep, if you are overwhelmed or feel stressed, don’t feel bad about sleeping a lot. Managing a mental illness can be extremely emotionally draining and a person can get just as tired and need sleep from emotional exhaustion as physical exhaustion. Do these things regularly and try not to quit a job unless you are on solid financial footing and have another job to go to. With that, I will leave you with a tip that applies to people with mental health issues and to people who want to be writers. Keep a journal. Get a notebook at the dollar store and some pens and write down each day what your mood is, write the date, and talk about how you feel. This is for your own uses only, and is a powerful tool in finding out how to treat yourself better and how to get better results. As always dear readers, there is so much more to be said about this, but time and space make me confine my words to a short part of my day. I would love to hear from anyone who reads this, and also I am very willing to take on any topics you would like to see covered in this blog. My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com. All the best!