mentally ill

Definitely a Touch of Mania In My Mind Tonight

This is what is known as the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. They are really beautiful inside, with plants from different climates in each one, made for Edmontonians to appreciate summer while it is winter outside, or to experience other parts of the world while the sun is shining. Scroll past today’s poem for my blog post.

 

Season’s Changes

Summer is past and all at once
The leaves all begin to turn
Soon cooler days will prevail
And marshmallow roasting fires will burn

I love this times of hayrides
Roasted hot dogs out under the stars
Loved ones all around me
And seeing the red twinkling light above of mars

As I change and I grow older
I sometimes let in worries and fears
And as the time goes by so fast
I also shed a few more tears

I think of all the loves I had and lost
And of all the loved ones who passed
I also miss more than a few old friends
From my old school’s graduating class

Look now, the leaves have fallen!
And the trees seem dead and bare
That means that Halloween is coming
Time to teach the little ones how to play and scare

The gutters are filled with crunchy leaves
That will soon be filled with ice and snow
But skiing, sledding, skating
Will still give us a healthy, happy glow

Don’t regret the end of summer
As I give best wishes to you, all of my friends
Just because the weather cycles are shifting
Doesn’t mean the cycles ever end

September 28, 2017
Leif Gregersen

Well, I don’t really know if anyone reads these. Still, it seems to be good therapy for me to write them. I am troubled by a few things tonight, not the least of which is that I can’t get to sleep. I thought it would be easy to sleep tonight, I stayed up all night, went for a swim in the morning and walked a total of at least 11km on top of that. I even played a little street hockey with a couple of kids for a while just for fun. It really was fun too, I got a lot of joy out of it. But now, after taking a pill for a headache, a tranquilizer and ten milligrams of melatonin I am not able to fall asleep and morning is fast approaching. It had been a long day yesterday. I got notice that I had a library book ready for pick-up and so I went and got it (Graphic Novel about Donald Duck) and spent most of the night reading it. I also have gotten myself into two courses online, both of which are writing courses. Basically I had been up all night. I don’t feel like I still can take on the world or even that my thoughts are racing, but I definitely think something is wrong if I can’t rest.

There have been a lot of things going on. I am now teaching a Wellness Recovery class for the Schizophrenia Society and it has its trials. There is this one young man (who reads this blog) who I lost a shouting match to over wanting to explain some ways a person can make a hospital stay easier. I had every right to kick him out of the class, but I didn’t want to have him leave disgruntled, I feel that would be simply the result of not teaching him with enough patience. I am reminded of one of the worse memories of my mom from a shortly before she died. She grabbed me by the collars while she was sitting in her wheelchair, wouldn’t let go of me, pulled me down to her face and said, “You are the stupidest…” It really hurt, even though I know my mom’s mind was pretty much gone near the end. I don’t know why negative things have to pop up, there were plenty of good memories.

So at a time like this, one has to stick close to family to get through. My dad and I went to a nice restaurant the other day and had fish and chips. The waitress was really cute but my dad didn’t seem to mind that I wanted to talk to her for a while after we finished eating.

Eating brings up a whole new subject. For the past while I have been trying out a vegan diet, though I stopped it about a week ago. I have to admit I felt better when doing it, didn’t feel so bloated and fat as I do now, but I found myself also feeling pretty weak and I didn’t get a whole lot of exercise in the time I was trying the diet. I have decided I will try the vegetarian/vegan diet again, but I want to consult with a professional nutritionist before I do.

As I look at the clock, I see that my countdown to having to get up is just six hours away and I have barely slept a wink. I see my Psychiatrist in the morning and I think I am going to have to bring this up with him. The bad thing is that I have been told that sleeping pills affect memory but I have been taking them anyway, and I have been finding that my memory is getting much worse. Anyhow dear readers, I hope you were able to wade through all of my complaining today. On the more positive side of things, I published a flash fiction piece, feel free to click below to check it out!

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2017/10/08/first-love-last-hope/

 

Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

When Sensitivity and Ego Collide

Ahh, it has been such a long time since I sat down to write a proper blog entry. So much has been happening to me. For starters, I have some savings right now but I have too many commitments to take any long trips. It’s funny but for the first time in my life, I have the means and cash to go to London and don’t want to. I may want to go back there in the near future, but for the moment I am happy just to stay in Edmonton. It is likely I will go to Toronto in the summer to visit my wonderful sister and sweet little niece, but that is at the back of my thoughts right now.

This past Friday was quite a shindig. The guy who got me work as a creative writing teacher hired me to MC the 20th-anniversary party for the building I live in and it was amazing. I felt really comfortable for most of the time I was up there and people really seemed to respond to my jokes and the poetry I read. I went to sleep that night feeling like my world was spinning and I was trying to hang onto it by spewing out a few choice words into a microphone.

What I am starting to slowly realize is that though my medications deal with a large portion of my symptoms, I still have a mental illness and stress, fatigue, emotion and contact with the outside world can affect it. Tonight was my Humanities 101 course at the University of Alberta and I found myself being hyper-sensitive to others and the things they said and did. I put my hand up a few times to ask questions and I got the impression that the instructor was getting frustrated. Then some guy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could ‘please’ pull my shirt down. That kind of pissed me off and it felt like it ruined a good night of learning and debate but I thought about things for a while and realized that I was the one wanting to be in control, that I don’t like it when people show their unwholesome body parts in public and that my ego was telling me that this person, though just as valuable as me or any other person had no right to tell me anything. So here I am at home now, playing some relaxing music, sipping a cup of ‘sleepytime’ brand tea and honestly considering an early night and a ‘take as needed’ pill that will help me rest. Well, that’s about it for now, folks. Thanks for tuning in. I will do more VLOGs as time allows. In the meantime, stay real!

Mental Health Mind Reading

Scroll down for today’s blog if you want to skip today’s photo and poem. the photo below is a black and white I took of a bedsheet after throwing it up in the air

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January One, 2017; 5:15am

  

Outside is still and dark, silence fills the land

On this day hope begins anew with New Year plans

We gathered in the cold to greet this year

With promises to set aside unhappiness, anger and fear

 

As the new day dawns, I promise to all of you

That there is not one thing that I promise to do

Other than put my friends and family always first

Through the lazy easy happy times and through the worst

 

I do know that many challenges will come to us

I just ask that you do your best and always trust

That our good times will greatly overwhelm the bad

And that you must call me any time you’re feeling sad

 

This day is also set aside to recall the past

None of our futures are singularly cast

Each of us together or apart can change our fate

If we just let go of all that bitterness and hate

 

Anger and anxiety consumes us from within

Worse than not receiving forgiveness for our sins

It hurts us as it drives those we love away

It can cause us to end up alone one day

 

Family is so very necessary for us all

Please don’t forget those great words, “divided we fall”

And please care for the elders in your community

One day we’ll be among them, you and me

 

A love still dwells in my heart for everyone

Not just at year’s end but with each setting sun

For all the friends and lovers who shared my hurts and joys

For those who taught me love, gentleness and poise

 

And I could not pass without saying something for

The teachers who opened so many doors

From my little niece who taught me how to care

To the instructors who wisdom followed me everywhere

 

I now vow to all of you to never stop

Looking past the little challenges, striving for the top

And also, I give a special word to those who wear a uniform and fight

I want to thank you all for risking your lives for what we know is right

 

Leif Gregersen

     Well, I haven’t got a lot to say regarding mental health. I have been experiencing anxiety lately and it has been working negatively on my stomach. As a result, I felt nausea last night and took a couple of gravol which helped the bad feeling and helped me sleep and even relax a bit. I got up and wrote a long letter to a friend I have been relying on way too much for our own good. She is this very kind and caring young woman and we have met for lunch a few times and I actually started to think we might go out, but I discovered she had no such intentions. She is so nice though that she has decided to keep me as a friend which I am very glad of. The problem that’s been happening lately is that she has been busy and I have been short of things to do since everything is shut down for the holidays and I live alone (yes, big mistake for someone with a mental illness!) I contacted her a couple of times and my anxiety started making up all these ideas. First I thought I was bothering her, then I wrote back hoping to make her less worried about me, then she sent me a quick text and I thought that she was ‘weirded’ out about me doing that. I keep stumbling over my words and it isn’t helping that my social skills and confidence are diminished from living alone. I still have a good friend in my life who I talk to a lot, but I would hate to lose this other person as a friend. I am kind of wondering if I need to up my dose of anti-anxiety medication despite the possible dependancy and side effects. I hope someone out there can identify with this and maybe take something out of it they can use. I wish there was a support group out there that was free and ongoing for neurotics like me.

The Trap of Mental Illness and Disability Benefits: Do You Want To Risk It?

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               A View of Downtown Edmonton From Outside My New Apartment

     Hi, I wanted to talk a little about disability benefits today.  This is a senstive topic for many reasons.  One of the big ones, as I know a good deal of my readers are from the United States, is that people on Welfare or even Social Security Benefits are looked down upon.  The tax burden on Americans is great, plus the cost of health care and this ends up worsening the problem from both ends.  People with mental illnesses are faced with costs that can’t be managed for medications, hospital treatment, doctors, housing and on and on.  The way the American system seems to be set up to work is that each person is responsible for themselves, and when someone has a severe mental illness, this can be just about impossible.  I can recall being in the US and simply knowing a guy who applied for foodstamps and then discussing it with an older gentleman and he literally stopped talking to me after we had travelled together for 3 days.  It seemed a harsh judgement and pretty ignorant, but this is the way many people down there think and there are valid reasons for this attitude.  I feel very fortunate to live in Canada and to have a disability benefit program plus health care and on top of that I get heavily subsidized housing and free fitness and leisure access.  It almost seems like paradise, but it definitely has its drawbacks.  One of them is that if I do go out and get a job, I have to limit my income to less than a minimum wage job or lose my benefits completely.  With the cost of psychiatric medications this would be a staggering blow.  At the present point I’m at I don’t honestly know if I could hold down a full-time job for any length of time, but I also don’t want to live the rest of my life with no improvements in my standard of living.

Some 27 years ago I found myself in a homeless shelter, mentally ill and penniless due to prolonged hospital admissions.  There were very few options left for me and so I made an application to join the military.  This would have provided me health benefits, an income, and a purpose in my life.  My application process was interrupted by a fight with my dad that sent me to the shelter, and I decided that since I was working towards something that I could do something I thought was unthinkable-I would apply for welfare benefits.  I will never forget the words of the social worker when I applied, as she looked up from the forms she was filling out for me, “Don’t get caught in the trap.”  I think she meant more along the lines of the trap of drug abuse or alcoholism and circle of poverty.  But whatever she meant, due to my mental illness, I was never able to join the military, and I later failed a concerted attempt to complete commercial pilot school, and was unable to hold down a full-time job.  For me the trap wasn’t in getting money for nothing, it was in that every time I tried to do something, either I was told I was ineligible as a person with a mental illness, or that I would try and do a job set before me and the incredible pressure of working up to acceptable standards was simply too much.  I was caught in a trap, and in some ways I still am.

Things are improving in my life though, I have found a part-time job that I am good at and that I enjoy.  I give talks to students about mental illness for the Schizophrenia Society, and I have written a number of books.  The books give me little income, but together I manage to put food on the table.  One thing I often think about is that despite that numerous times I went over the brink into madness, I now have a good life with stable housing and income and something to do, but I have a lot of regret that I have no life partner.  This is another trap that people with mental illnesses have to be aware of, the isolation factor, and it has a lot to do with receiving benefits.  If you don’t have to force yourself to get up and get out and look for work, you may just sit inside and watch TV and never care if you have friends or a significant other, and years will fly past and a person will have nothing but regrets.  One of the reasons that people end up isolated like this besides recieving benefits is that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness.  One thing with me is that I used to try and hide the fact that I have a diagnosed illness, but now I am very forward about it.  So many people, when you stop trying to hide things, will tell you they suffer, they have a family member or close friend that suffers.

Anyhow, a lot of that is beside the point I was trying to make.  How do you avoid the trap that going on benefits causes?  You may not be able to, but you can make your life as full as possible.  I always like to say that the first thing you need to do with a mentally ill person is get them proper treatment, proper medications.  Then you need to take some therapy that will help you understand yourself.  After that, a life skills course or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course can help a great deal.  From there, even if it just means taking one course, get some school under your belt.  While you are doing this, find ways to keep fit and healthy, in what you do with your body and what you put in it.  Quit smoking if you smoke.  Then, try and find work, even part-time.  Spend as little as possible, and save, and keep taking your medications, work on your mental health on an ongoing basis, and before you know it, you may forget you ever were sick.  It isn’t an easy process, and it isn’t a simple one, but it is one that is worthwhile.  I like to keep telling people that you need to have goals and direction, specific ones.  “I want a bachelor’s degree in six years.” would be an excellent one.  “I want to be stabilized and back working in two years, earning enough to drive a car and rent my own apartment.” is another good one.  Once you have goals, you have a direction to move in, and if you are having a hard time, you can end up feeling so much better about yourself from just working a little bit each day towards your goal.  Take care Dear Readers!