mental illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Drugs Other Than Prescribed Medications For Those With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #depression #mania #psychosis #psychiatry #drugs #alcohol #recovery

 

I can recall a wise friend of mine once telling me about his experience in AA meetings. He said not only that he had been diagnosed with it, but also that in the 12-step program he was in, people with bipolar disorder were greatly over-represented.

Something that I often have thought about is, how do people go from regular people to alcoholics and then addicts? I watched a very insightful TV miniseries that came out of Britain called Traffic which was mostly about Heroin. I found it interesting in many ways. One of the things that was enlightening was not only that there is a huge problem with heroin addiction destroying lives in Britain, but that the opium poppy, which is what heroin is derived from, is grown openly as just another cash crop. I don’t know all the places that it is cultivated, but in another documentary I saw about the present war in Afghanistan, American and other countries’ soldiers are instructed not to harm the opium crops or obstruct any of the farmers from cultivating them. It seems so tragic that this problem could be cut off at the source but it is a very complicated problem. First of all, the Afghan farmers who grow the opium poppy don’t get very rich of their crops, they barely earn enough to feed their families and it would cause such extreme hardship if the crops were destroyed and forbidden throughout the whole country that there would be starvation and death to follow.

Another thing that must be considered is that if the production of opium poppy crops went underground, there would be a great deal more profiteering and violence surrounding it. Opium has existed for thousands of years in Asia and there are large numbers of people all over the world in serious dependance of the drug.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to instruct a poetry class in a homeless drop-in centre that had a safe injection site. The purpose of me teaching this subject was to help people to be able to express themselves about how they felt about the opiod crisis. This referred more to things like fentanyl and oxycontin, though heroin and other needle drugs are used in the community. What I learned from this experience is that a great deal of the people who end up homeless and addicted start out just like any normal person. They go through school, get work experience, find a job, and then one day they have the unfortunate experience of painful illness or injury. They may get benefits for disability, but a lot of them have to rely on savings and selling possessions like vehicles and houses just to put food on the table. These people get prescribed pain killers and soon find they can’t do without them. Then something happens (in a lot of cases) where the person realizes that street drugs work better and are much cheaper than designer painkillers. Then we open Pandora’s box and before you know it, the person is addicted and homeless. Then of course there is another side of it, a childhood trauma, often sexual abuse makes a person so incredibly ‘messed up’ for want of a better term that they turn to drugs to blank out the pain and the nightmares and bad memories.

I think at this point it might be useful to state that there are some drugs that end up as gateway drugs, but attitudes and concepts of this are changing. Now, even experts are saying that the real gateway drug is trauma. But I have known some people who were in recovery who told me about how they got started. In my own case, I actually used THC before I even drank alcohol in amounts sufficient to inebriate myself. I only did it a handful of times but things happened when I did this. I found in doing it I made the only strong connection with my older brother of my early teen years. Soon after I started smoking cigarettes and then I began to drink, just a little at first, but soon I was getting drunk every weekend, and soon after that I was drinking at least something every day. I almost couldn’t understand why I started to like alcohol so much because my dad was a drinker and I blamed a lot of my problems on his aggressive behaviour after his daily intake of at least 12 beer. I remember being so worried he would get an impaired driving conviction or that one time when he was driving drunk with the whole family in our van he would go off the road at high speed and kill us all. Looking. back, that could have been where a lot of my life-long difficulty with anxiety came from. I always felt (at school with bullies) that my health, safety, even my life was in danger. That anxiety stunted my social growth. I never had a girlfriend in school, never went to a single school dance. I did know a couple of young women and had a date or two but I couldn’t even look females in the eye, I was so ashamed that they would find out how messed up I was. Then came a cadet dance. Just about every time I went to a cadet dance I just sat in the corner, but this time, a friend brought a large quantity of beer. I got really drunk and came very close to having sex with two young women in the same night. It was a deadly connection I made in thinking that alcohol equalled calming of the nerves, which equalled sex. It took me a long time to quit.

Around the age of 20, I started to take psychiatric medications on a regular basis and I tried to quit drinking. Then I nearly killed myself one weekend drinking extremely strong rum on a camping trip. I blacked out everything after my first drink. I took my medication after drinking and vomited all over the place and alienated friends completely that I had known for years. Luckily though over the years I was able to keep control of the drinking and I used THC very few times. What scared me though was going through my early to middle adult years and finding out that friends had done such drugs as crack, morphine, cocaine and just about anything a person could name. I wanted to cut ties with them but as a person with a mental illness I had few friends so it was difficult.

Along the way I developed some theories of addiction that I think are relevant to share. Sometimes, people use drugs to self-medicate away some of their mental health issues. I recall a party I went to where I downed a bunch of beers quickly and then was bouncing off the walls in a state of mania. I thought, as I thought that alcohol meant more female attention, that alcohol also meant a release from my depression. For as long as I connected good times with booze I was unable to stay quit for very long. Fortunately maturity really helped me and at this point it has been years since I drank or used drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Some people who are really successful, like high-priced lawyers or rock stars end up doing a lot of drugs and I think I understand why. They work extremely hard, rise up to the top, have everything they ever imagined, but deep down they are just ordinary people who need things like love and satisfaction in life just like anyone. Their lives seem empty or they regret that things will never get better and in this time they turn to drugs. It’s astounding what some rock stars have done, like Stephen Tyler of Arrowsmith admitting that he had consumed literally six million dollars of cocaine in his life.

Mental illness can lead to addiction. Substance abuse, and this can lead to homelessness, and alienation and eventually even your life isn’t worth that much. What I feel has to happen is that people need to learn more about themselves, possibly through therapy, group therapy or 12-step meetings. What needs to happen is that a person has to rebuild a world view. They need to come to understand the importance of living the clean life, the good life, the advantages of being stable and trustworthy and the steps they need to take to become that way. It starts with abstinence, but the work isn’t done with just that. My wise friend from the 12-step program, now departed, once said that “We don’t have a cure for addiction, we just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” With that I will leave you dear readers. Remember you can write me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com and that my books are available on amazon.

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

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

 

The Mentally Unsound Zombies That Walk the Night

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

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

Walter Warren Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

What NOT To Say To An Expecting Mama

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

“Wow, you’re huge!”

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

“Sleep while you can.”

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

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

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

“My childbirth experience was horrible.”

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

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

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

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

 

Mental Health During Isolation and Pandemic Distress

You know Spring is waiting out there. The trees are turning a lovely shade of green, the skies are clear and lovely blue but something dark and foreboding waits for you. A disease that has crippled the world, brought empires to their knees. It has happened before, the Black Plague, the Spanish flu. They call this one the Coronavirus and half the people out there think it’s a joke and aren’t following the rules of distancing and wearing masks. You are doing all you can but it’s only been a month and you are near your breaking point already. Experts claim this could last well into next year and you have no idea how you’re going to make it. It almost seems as though it would be better to just get the virus and be immune. But then there’s the risk! This is a dark horror out of a Twilight Zone episode, but it’s real!

Check out my Book Launch Video, just click on the Youtube Link right next to this text!!

Hello my dear readers! I hope none of you found the previous short statement too scary, it is a description of what I have been going through this past little while and suspect some of you have gone through as well. In hopes of helping anyone who regularly reads this blog, I just wanted to let you know once more that if you click on the photo of the Tower Bridge on the right column of this blog, you will be able to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3” 

So what’s been going on? A few days I called in to our health link line (811 for anyone who lives in Alberta) and was given instructions to isolate for ten days. It really has been hard, especially since my two best friends have very good reasons to keep themselves away from anyone who has even a slight chance of having Covid-19. One of them has a little boy at home and the other is taking care of her elderly grandmother. The cool thing though is that my apartment is much better than any prison could be, as long as I don’t get bored of the things I have to do in here. I am using my time to write stories, to read, to play video games, and I hate to admit it but I have been treating myself to some non-sugar comfort food.

Something I am curious about that I would encourage feedback on is that I wonder if anyone, especially those who have a mental illness that is well controlled, experiences the imitation of symptoms when they are sleeping. Lately I have been thinking a lot about my psychosis and what made my voices and delusional thoughts so convincing. Part of it of course has to do with the fact that these delusions and hallucinations came from within my own head but so realistically seemed like they were coming from others. I can recall I would do something, say threw out a small container of milk, and then through my mind would flash the thought that someone might really be pissed off at me for doing that and in an instant it was like I could hear someone swearing and cursing and threatening me, and it seemed to come from one guy in particular.

I have really been trying hard to be able to put into words what it is like to have delusions. One of the sad things about mental illness is that a person can be tormented by negative thoughts and false delusional ideas and end up getting so frustrated trying to hold everything together that they lash out and end up being abused or assaulted, sometimes by family members (yes, this has happened to me) and often by people who are offended by people who have a mental illness. This is why it is so important to have places that are safe for people who have mental illnesses. Of course, this means there should be psychiatric hospitals, but there should also be group homes where people with mental illnesses can live independently but still in a community where they are understood and supported. I lived in such a group home for around 15 years and I went through a huge amount of personal growth at that time which I never would have been able to do otherwise.

Well, unfortunately this is going to be a short one today readers. I would love it if any of you would contact me with ideas or suggestions, or even just to converse, my email as always is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

From Out of the Darkness of a Pandemic: A Ray of Light, a Streak of Hope

A Little About What Made This the Best Day of Isolation I Have Had and a Flash Fiction Story

 

This photo symbolizes some of what I have been going through lately with this whole Covid-19 self isolation thing. Life had become a flat, undisturbed puddle on a sidewalk, nothing new coming my way, my plans not bearing fruit. Then something came along to shake everything up and make it beautiful. This photo was taken a couple of years ago and is one of the more interesting things I have photographed from something very plain and ordinary. I feel so great about what happened today, I wanted to use this very special photo to tell you all something.

Today, somehow, someone got the information that I have a Patreon Page (click the text to view it) I have only really been advertising it in the signature line of my email. I made some videos for it, one on relaxation with some soothing music played while viewing Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, and I displayed words telling people ideas and facts about relaxation. I had a lot of hope that people would jump at the chance to help support my efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness and increase awareness of it, but I had been told already that mental illness is not a popular charity. The page sat dormant with no supporters for more than a year. Despite all that, I forged ahead. I kept on taking pictures, kept on writing blogs. I didn’t care that I wasn’t even coming close to breaking even. Then some great things happened and I got jobs that paid me a little money to do things like teach creative writing in a psychiatric hospital here in Edmonton and another where I give talks about schizophrenia, the facts, and my own experiences. After hard work and diligence, doors started to open. Miracles started to happen. A few weeks ago I received a letter from an organization called “Northwords” which is a writer’s festival that goes on in the Northwest Territories. Now, as a Canadian, the far North has always fascinated me, and this opportunity was taking place in Yellowknife, which I have never been to but heard so much about. They wanted to fly me up, give me a hotel room and pay very well to have me do some workshops and talks at the festival. I was totally elated. Then, a woman reached out to me about a multicultural project that she wanted me to write poems for, and a small town library offered me a nice sum of money to come up and talk at a mental health conference. Then the axe fell. One by one, each one of these opportunities ended up being cancelled, and I was laid off from my jobs. I really felt dejected, and for the past while I have been having a very hard time with the forced isolation from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

So many chances lost, some of them never to come back. And the fear that if two of my family members (my dad and my sister’s husband) get the virus, they won’t survive it. Something very simple happened, something people may not see as a miracle, but I did. Today after sleeping most of the day away with a bad headache and not knowing if I should risk going out to buy some needed groceries, some sweet, kind and caring person made the effort to reach out to me and say, (not in so many words) “you’re doing something special and I want to help you” A woman named Meg found my Patreon page and put herself down to pledge at the $8 level. This isn’t the largest donation, many people have been so kind and supportive by buying my books, but this was the first time I really felt recognized by someone and valued as a storyteller and poet.

For those of you who don’t know, my patreon page offers two original poems a month at the $5 pledge level, and two poems and an original short story at the $8 level. Anyone who wishes to support me with a one-time donation of $200 will receive a complete set of all 13 of my books which includes four volumes of poetry, three short story books, two short novels and three “Mental Health Memoirs”. My patreon page is at www.patreon.com/leifg and I would so much love it if I could get more people to support my work, but that $8 pledge has given me a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of isolation, frustration, and loss of hope. I am not going to count on it, but if I could get just 3-5 more sponsors, it would pay for small things like groceries and bus passes, and allow me to dedicate more time to this blog, to more videos, and to just getting through the tough times and loss of income that Covid-19 has brought into all of our lives.

At this time, I would like to give a very special thank you to an agency here in Edmonton called The Learning Centre Literacy Association. Through them I am employed to go to our regional psychiatric hospital and teach creative writing. Over the course of a year and a half of working there, I have really grown to love and appreciate not just the incredible staff I work with, but also the patients. As I am in isolation at the moment, I think a lot about some of the things people in there have been through from debilitating depression to psychosis, schizophrenia, and a host of disorders, not to mention unspeakable traumas. I have been able to offer them my knowledge as a writer and experience as a former patient to express themselves through the written word and give them healing and strength to recover and put their lives in order. The Learning Centre is such a great organization that despite that I am unable to attend classes, they are allowing me to do some of my work from home and they are continuing to pay me the weekly amount I am allotted for my 2-hour class.

I am hoping that anyone who reads today’s blog entry will explore this website further and look at some of my videos and stories and poems and friend me on Facebook and consider joining in my efforts to help those who society often forgets. And of course, I want to remind everyone that hasn’t done so yet that my newest book ($12 paperback, email me to order) Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis is available for free download simply by clicking on the photo of the bridge with the two towers to the right of this blog. Just to give everyone a fresh taste of my writing, I would like to share here a flash fiction piece I wrote a few months ago

 

A Little Detroit Muscle

By: Leif Gregersen

 

People said I was nuts to think I could take on Doug’s 1978 Cougar with the 351 V-8 under the hood with me driving my Dad’s van. But because I tried, miracles happened.

I was headed home from West Edmonton Mall on 170th street feeling good. My Dad didn’t lend me his van often, but today he was off work relaxing, so when I asked if I could take his prized 1980 GMC Tradesman van to “West Ed,” and he said yes, I felt like nothing could go wrong. As I drove there, my mind was clouded with thoughts of a shapely, friendly, kind blonde girl in grade ten that almost never left my thoughts in those days.

There were so many ways to blow money now that there were three phases to the mall. Multi-plex theatres, hundreds of stores, two food courts, a skating rink, a hotel. What brought me there was a video game called “Galaxia.” It had been phased out of most arcades, likely because the few people that played it could monopolize it for two hours on one quarter. Even though it cost me at least $5 in gas, or $3 in bus fare, I would try and play my game at least once a week. Today I had outdone myself, I made the gold shield level and hadn’t lost a man to the relentless laser fire the aliens bombarded me with for the past two hours. I didn’t care that summer was almost over, I didn’t care that if I didn’t make a move Stephanie would find a more athletic, more cool boyfriend at our high school. All I cared about was my personal victory and that beautiful red and white van waiting to take me home again.

Halfway back, I looked in my mirror to see the sight that I dreaded. The black Cougar, coming up fast on my tail. I hated Doug so much I slowed down, just to annoy him off and make him wait all the way back. But all my slowing did was make him try illegally passing me on the right. When he pulled up beside me I gave him room out of sheer terror of watching someone die. Still, he leaned heavy on the horn. I pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor and started a potentially deadly game of chicken, both knowing that a third vehicle could come along any time and most likely kill one of us.

Doug hit the gas hard, I could hear his engine rev, but to my surprise, he didn’t pull far ahead. As our speed increased to 100 klicks then 120, I was holding my own. I knew the van had a V-8 350 engine with a four-barrel carburetor, but I figured the size and weight of the thing would make it no match for a speedy, low to the ground sporty car like Doug had. I was wrong and for the second time that day I was going to prove that I could grab a lot of glory if I stopped seeing myself as a looser for a day.

Our gas guzzlers blasted down the two-lane road, Doug in the shoulder trying everything, even swerving at me, to regain what he thought was his rightful position. I was wired with fear and adrenalin as I saw my top speed go further than I thought it ever would. At 140 the gauge just stopped increasing, but I kept going faster.

All of it came down to just one critical second. Three simple steps. I looked over at Doug who hit his brakes as I warped through the green light that marked the entrance to St. Albert. Doug took a sharp left at high speed and I totally dusted him.

I took my foot off the gas, let the van slow, but before I had gotten back to the speed limit, blue and red flashing cherries lit up just behind me. Cops! Doug must have had a radar detector!

For the next half hour, I waited, parked in front of the cop as he sat in his car going over all of my information. Then he gave me a long lecture, stopping to explain how much of a nice guy he was to only give me a ticket for speeding and not for racing or stunting. Then he handed me a ticket that would take two of my gas station paycheques to cover and I trembled with fear at the reception I was going to get when my Dad found out about this. I would be lucky if I would ever drive again, at least in his van.

My Dad did find out, it’s hard to miss a broken speedometer. When the date came, I went to court to ask for extra time to pay, having the $150 ready if needed. Then, to my delight, it turned out the cop that ticketed me wasn’t there and the case was dismissed. I figured sometimes fate does work miracles. A couple of days later my school buddy Craig sold me his old 1974 Pinto for $150. The thing even ran! It took a while longer to save for insurance, but one sunny fall morning as I was out washing the cracked, rusting factory reject, I was suddenly star struck as Stephanie, in the flesh, walked by in the cutest summer outfit I had ever seen her in. She glanced at me and smiled, and I smiled back. She came up and asked me about my car and we ended up talking for an hour before she gave me her number. I promised her a ride in my new faithful steed when I got insurance and plates. And that was it. The end of my racing career, and the beginning of a romance that lasted me pretty much up until modern days. Sometimes it was hard growing up where I did, but sometimes it was pretty damned fantastic.

 

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