Am I Schizophrenic Or Am I A Person With Schizophrenia. Maybe Neither

As I sit at my desk typing this, I am thinking about a strange situation. I have been doing a lot of writing about stigma and how changing the language we use to define illnesses has to change. I should say now that my diagnosis is not schizophrenia, but actually schizoaffective disorder with anxiety. Anxiety is one of the parts of my disorder that isn’t really controlled with medications, but I can recall experiencing it throughout my life. As a teenager, my family took a trip to the mountains. At the time my dad was a heavy drinker and once while we were driving through mountain passes he took and put some rum in a pop bottle and I was so terrified not only that we could go over the 1,000 foot tall cliff and all die, but I was also deeply concerned that my dad would get caught drinking and driving which would cause our family so many problems that I doubt we would have even stayed together. After years, I have been able to reduce how anxiety affects me, mostly by pushing my limits. When I was younger and probably a lot better looking than I am now, I used to push my boundaries by talking to women I met and trying to get their phone number. That was in the days when I either wasn’t properly medicated or wasn’t medicated at all. I really wonder how I came across to people. To me, most of my actions seemed normal but there were times when others thought I was on drugs or something because I would talk fast (this is the bipolar part of my schizoaffective disorder coming out). It was hard for me to stop talking, harder still to let others talk. Then, what was really tragic was when I started to go into psychosis. I would have these thoughts sort of ‘appear’ in my mind. A day comes to mind when I was in a hotel in my home town and these ‘thoughts’ that I think were similar to what others call ‘voices’ told me that someone had bought me the brand new minivan I could see parked in front of the hotel. I went as far as walking up to it and trying the door. If the door had been open and the keys were in it, I would have likely driven it away and been arrested in short order for theft. Instead, following my instructions from within, I took a cab to a place where two former friends lived and somehow their dad not only knew me but saw me as some kind of danger. He called the police but I didn’t get charged, what happened was that everything just got to be too much for me and I called the police myself to be taken to the psychiatric hospital. Being in psychosis is such an awful thing to experience. You get these preposterous thoughts and you feel compelled to act on them even though in my case I had a pretty good idea that I was ill. The thing I will never forget is that somehow each time I went into psychosis, I also experienced severe stomach pains, some blindingly painful. Another thing I found out is that if you continue to go untreated with psychosis, you can suffer brain damage.

But what I wanted to get at was the language of mental illness. Right now, and for a couple of years, I haven’t experienced any psychosis. I also have rarely experienced any kind of manic state or even depression, aside from some mild winter blues that went away in a few weeks. I see my doctor, I take my medication and I sleep reasonable, regular hours. To me that doesn’t sound like a person one would call crazy or insane. I think there should be new, less stigmatizing definitions for people who have an illness that is under control. I hate some of the terms they use like ‘high functioning schizophrenic’.

What I do remember is that when I first got out of the hospital when I was 18, I didn’t care about anything. Just before that, my dad had taken my gun away and sold it. It wasn’t much, it was just a target rifle, good for shooting squirrels and not much else. But it was my one connection to nature. The times I would spend tramping through the woods trying to get rabbits or doing target practise were my only really happy times. I ended up also being kicked out of my parent’s house and lived in a downtown neighbourhood for a while where I saw a gun for sale that I wanted to buy with the intention of robbing a bank with it. It doesn’t surprise me to look back at that now because all my life I had been mistreated and abused, bullied and beaten, insulted and belittled. Then I was put in the hospital when I made the slightest deviation from normal. Fortunately I had some positive influences in my life, and despite how difficult it was, I pieced my life back together, eventually settled into a medication and sleeping routine, and even worked well paying jobs (right up to present day). And although I am doing so much better than when I was last ill, I am still tormented by memories of my past. I think soon I will be ready for the next step, which would be to try and get some counselling just to help sort out my thoughts and feelings. Chemically I am doing well, but psychologically there are some roadblocks to perfect health.

So, in summation, I ask all those who read this blog to brainstorm with me. What is a better name for schizophrenia? What is a good name for people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, but have had their illness under control for some time. Please leave any suggestions in the comments and have a very happy holiday season!

Mental Health Recovery: A Time Comes When You Have to Re-Evaluate

I like to think that all of us are experiencing a recovery journey. For people with mental illnesses, just beginning this journey can be extremely difficult. For one, starting on a recovery journey often means you have to accept that you have an illness and accept treatment like medications, even severe treatments like ECT and hospitalization.

The other thing that makes having an illness such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is that not only do medications rob us of so many important parts of our lives, our illness also comes with anosognosia, a condition where a person who is ill doesn’t realize they have an illness.

Time and again when I think of this topic, the image of Charlie Sheen, having extreme psychosis, in a manic state, was using drugs and making a fool out of himself with his radio program. I think in cases like this, one of the most important things you can do after something like this occurs, is to forgive yourself for being ill. Recognize that you were having medical problems (except with your brain not your arms or legs) and that beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help anything.

All that is great, but not really what I had in mind when I wanted to talk about re-evaluating. The kind of re-evaluating I want to discuss is when you take a long, contemplative look at yourself and really and truly decide what it is in life that gives you joy. Myself, nothing comes close to the pleasure I get from writing. The best thing about is is that you build up a reputation and a career as either a fiction writer or a journalist, and as long as you keep on doing your best work, you will build a fan base and do very well for yourself.

The next sub-topic I wanted to discuss is when we take a hard look at who we are as people. We ask tough questions, like “Do I believe in God/should I attend Church?” “Do I consider myself an activist or advocate for a cause, and do I do anything to give back what the world gives me?”

When I was younger, it was enough to know my days were filled with joy and friendship. Then a few years passed and I found out none of the people I grew up with cared enough about me to help me or even stay in contact with me. For a few years I tried to stay in touch with my former friends but it just became futile.

Still, I had my talent and my passion. Funny thing is, at first I thought it was all about flying, then I started to write a little about flying, then started to write about everything and I found a deep love of writing that has not only replaced my love of flying, it also brings in a few bucks when I sell some books or publish another article.

What I think you, my dear reader, should do, is to try and find something you are passionate about. There are so many things. My sister has a Master’s Degree in Education, but she spends a ton of her free time beading, making necklaces and such out of beds she assembles. It occupies her, it takes away stress, and fills her time. Playing sports can be an excellent passion, not to mention also a big stress reliever. One thing that is interesting about sports is that you never have to stop learning more about whichever sport you choose to play. And also, if you don’t want to be too much of a competitive person, you can participate in sports such as walking or taking long tours on a bicycle. You are the one in charge.

One of the great things about having a fitness routine, is that if you are unemployed, participating in some sports can help prepare you mentally and physically for your next job.

One of the things a lot of people struggle with is that they get a disability pension and are required to report any income. I do feel you have to be completely honest with whoever manages your case at CPP or SSI or whoever is in charge of your case. But it might be a good idea to work a job part-time, allowing your case manager to deduct what you earn, and then when you are more sure and ready, talk about transitioning back to being independent. And with any luck, if you haven’t already, having a good job and being in control of your life, you may find a significant other who you will be able to share your life with.

The last topic for today I want to mention is volunteering. So many times, it can be next to impossible to break into industries you want to try. I had always had a dream of having my own radio show, and when I was able to volunteer on our local community radio station, I ended up having an amazing time. I will never forget that feeling of loading up my briefcase, heading out for the downtown bus while it was still dark, transferring to the train and then joining thousands of students on a walk to the University. It really felt like I had a wonderful purpose.

One of the cool things about volunteering is that often you can get your choice of jobs. For a while, I volunteered as a pastoral care volunteer. I would visit patients who didn’t get out much, take them for walks. Those old men showed me so much kindness, even though really they had so little to give. I have had a few volunteer jobs, but my suggestion to you dear reader is to do that critical thinking about what gives your life meaning, what you want to do most, then contact the volunteer network (or equivalent in your area) and find a job that will help ease you into your new profession.

Have a great day Dear Readers! All the best!

Leif Gregersen

Working While Dealing With Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia or Major Depression

This is me and my boss Tanya from the Schizophrenia Society after giving a talk to the Edmonton Police Recruits

We are all told how things work from a very young age. You complete school, you find a job, you save money, get married, have kids, save for retirement and then enjoy your golden years. B.S.

It is sometimes discouraging to look back at how that script worked for me. I worked hard in school, got good grades, had several different part-time and the odd full-time job for experience and to finance things like a car and a love of Bruce Springsteen Albums. Then, three months from graduating high school psychosis came on me like a bandit, like an armed man.

For a long time at that point, I had been struggling. I was having serious problems sleeping which led to poor performance with anything I had to do in the morning, including classes. As well, I was living with severe, crippling depression that I just couldn’t seem to get out from under. I had a poor self-image and only a few close friends. When psychosis hit, it didn’t take long for my behaviour to cause extreme concern among friends and family.

I remember when I was in the hospital and despite my negative setbacks, I looked on the bright side. Now I could get a full-time job and have some steady income instead of struggling to keep going alongside my school work. I even knew the place I wanted to work, a plastics plant in my home town. As soon as I left the hospital, I put in my application and they called me right away. Sadly, largely because of the fact that I was on heavy doses of medication, I was unable to do the job and was fired just three days later.

Over the years since then I have had so many jobs, a lot of them being security work. I didn’t particularly like security work, but as long as you had no criminal record and a pulse, it was easy to get a job doing it. I just liked the idea of being paid (a pittance) to read. Right now though, I don’t recommend this type of work to anyone with a mental illness, to work security you often have to switch around from days to nights and back again and this is murder on your system and makes it very difficult for you to get proper rest and for your medication to work properly.

One of the most important things a person with a mental illness who is unemployed can do is to get regular exercise. (Look for YMCA programs near you if you don’t have other access to a gym, the YMCA often gives discounted memberships to people with disabilities). Over time I built myself up to being able to swim long distances, walk long distances and lift weights. Being in shape meant I was able to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime when it presented itself to me. I was able to take on the extremely physical job of being a stage hand setting up major concerts.

That was a real heyday for me. Great money, lots of overtime, unlimited concerts. I loved just about all of it. I did have a problem though with dealing with the pressure, both from my employer and my peers. The level of cruelty of some of the older firemen who worked that job was unbelievable. But I didn’t let it get to me, and I didn’t play into their little world of, “I’m the senior man so I’m the better man.” bullshit. I worked, I spent my pay, and I worked towards something better, I kept writing. When I was able to supplement my needs with writing, I left and didn’t even say goodbye.

Things have really gone well for me. Though I am 50 now and can’t learn as easily as when I was 17, I am still learning a great deal and interacting with some incredible people. Fortunately, my illness is under control. It takes a lot of time and proper medications to get to that point, and I have to always remind myself that my situation can get out of hand very easily if I let anything get in the way of my mental health, as it did a couple of years ago when I was admitted to the Grey Nuns Hospital with a severe psychosis (for more details on this, please feel free to download my free book, “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo to the right of London’s Tower Bridge. But all in all, I am strong, healthy and independent and that feels great.

Don’t Let Your Financial or Mental Health Issue Keep You From Resting–Sleep Is Essential!

Good day dear readers!

I am now up and writing on a very precarious footing. I went to bed four hours ago and just now woke up with a stomach ache which I am treating with seven-up. Funny to think of all the times in my youth when I ordered my favourite drink, vodka, seven and lime. I’ve actually been thinking a fair bit about when I did a lot of drinking. There were some fun times, like when I used to go visit my DJ friend and we would play drinking games and get completely blitzed. He ended up being quite a jerk after I had my mental health problems, we haven’t spoken in many years. Kind of goes to show the value of superficial friendships based on an addiction.

Well, tomorrow is a big day. I will be turning 50. I am in fairly good spirits about the whole thing, the truth is I am happier now at 50 than I was when I was 30. Almost hard to believe I have been living in the same neighbourhood now for over 20 years. I really get treated well here. Kind, caring people like my barber Tony live here. Then of course there is Dan Glugosh and his amazing family. I would find it very hard to leave this area.

I think in 20 years, the most important thing I have learned is the importance of rest for people with mental health issues. And of course, hand in hand with rest is a stable place to live. So many times, I see homeless people who look completely exhausted, trying to get a little sleep on a bus or in a library. It all seems so unfair that a person gets treated so poorly just because they don’t fit into “The status quo”. A few years back, I had a car, a great job and I was working out. But because I worked early mornings, took a long break, then went back to finish up late in the evening as a stage hand, there were some pretty precarious times. That is something that everyone should try and put aside if they are ever diagnosed with a mental health problem, pushing yourself through lack of sleep.

I recall driving home from the pool, intending to sleep the day away and being so tired I could barely keep my car on the road. This is a malady that I am sure a lot of people with mental health issues has, the two factors most written about, what you decide to do now and what you want to do when you wake up.

As a kid, I was always impressed by commercials advertising for people to join the military when they would say, “In the Army, we do more before 9 am than most people do all day.” I really though that was cool, working together and by yourself to achieve goals you never thought possible. Then I later went into cadets and got to experience a lot of that stuff first hand. I recall drinking it in from the very first night.

Just to skip back a bit, I recently wrote an exercise in writing about how my life experience getting pickled on beer and whatever else had to do with some of the things in life I would experience later. Of of the things I recall is that when I got drunk beyond my control, I still had a fair bit of free will. It was that capacity for free will that sends a lot of people who are drinking off to prison. Of course, I learned in my Law class in high school that, in Canada at least, people get time off their sentences if they have a mental illness.

Of course, when you consider mental illness and the Law, other very unfair things pop up. One of them, which I am not sure how I feel about, is that you can kill someone and have the sentence reduced to manslaughter if you can prove you had been intoxicated. Our laws sadly favour those who own substantial resources and can easily fight back if a law bothers them or even if they are just having anxiety due to being alone.

The next step down would be assault, then property crimes. Many people think property crimes are among the worst, especially since they seem to happen to everyone. These are some of the disproportionate volume of overall serious crime cases. Reading up on the subject often points out that if there are any problems, you can just kill your victim and use another hostage. It is frightening to see how many people lost a friend to illness or suicide, or preventable homocide and overdoses. And of course, there are so many people who have been dying in the ever-worsening pandemic.

One of the things I feel is important to do is to set aside everything you are able to that costs you money. It is so important in these times to always be mindful of your needs. I have been talking a fair bit about needs in this blog. One of the ways I am very lucky is that when I was in cadets, I learned a very valuable lesson That was, understanding how to teach the creative writing class I am putting on twice a week. One wouldn’t think it could, but these classes have a big toll on my overall fatigue and other symptoms. If you have that fatigue you can’t even describe here, or want more information about support groups, it is my suggestion that you consider sleep to be critical. Go to bed as early as 8:00 and read until you feel tired enough to try a full rest. Above all, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about such feelings, they can truly help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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