poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day Dear Readers! All the best!

Leif Gregersen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LG

Poetry, Mental Health and Addiction, and How Our Work Defines Us

Just a heads up, if you click on the photo of London’s Tower Bridge to the right, you will be able to download a free copy of my latest mental health book!

I wrote a poem during my writing class that I teach Mondays and Thursdays (please email viking3082000@yahoo.com if you want to join, there are limited spots). I wanted to write about the executive lifestyle and how some people, especially over-achievers will go to business school, work their way up the ladder, end up very successful, then realize that they never really did in life what they wanted.

In the poem, the main character is basically in the middle of a nervous breakdown and all he really knows how to help himself is with drugs and alcohol. I hope you like it, let me know what you think.

Incidentally, some time this week I will be published in the Ottawa Citizen, in the opinion section. I will put a link to the article here for anyone interested.

Big City Headache

By Leif Gregersen

Killer migraine pounding my head hard

As I wake up in some stranger’s yard

Wandering cold, no place to rest, no way to clean

So many live like this, it seems so obscene

Eat at the shelter three meals a day

Life until now was never this way

So much has happened, so much was lost

Once I had so many possessions, caring not of the cost

No need for coffee, no need for sleep

Just us two would do, cocaine and me

It’s hard to conceive but I forgot my name

Still in some small way I’m more happy insane

My wife came and found me as I sat on a curb

Tossed me her wedding ring without a word

Desperate, I pawned it, then got a room

Sat down and took stock of the poisons I had consumed

I started working temp labour to pay the rent

Fell dead asleep exhausted each night, fully content

I bought back the ring, then went for a walk

But I knew my ex-wife wouldn’t even talk

I walked a long way to a bridge and looked down

Nothing to stop me, no one around

In that desperate state I knew what to do

I tossed in the ring and felt happy and new

Then I did some walking and thinking all night alone

Caring not for my trophy wife or my former home

I now make minimum wage for very hard work

But I’m a real person now, not some uncaring jerk

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

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,

Leif Gregersen