poetry

Save the Date! I Am Going To Give Live Readings From My Books and Opening Things Up To Question and Answers In April and May!!

click below for more information. Please note that the times mentioned are MST

https://bmcnews.org/story/leif-gregersen-to-host-two-online-readings

Please note! Due to a scheduling problem, my second online public reading will be moved back. Check back here for details after Friday, May 6th

Why It Is Almost Always Negative To Make Friends or Find Romantic Partners While In a Psychiatric Ward

drop me a line with some of your own stories like these or other feedback: viking3082000@yahoo.com

I remember when I first met the guy who became one of my few friends after I left the hospital. He was incredibly strange, he looked awkward and was very stuck up. One of the things I remember him doing was running up and down the hospital hallways in short bursts. One time, a nurse slighted him and he went on for hours about how he was going to look up the definition of a nurse in the library and photocopy it and put it where she could see it as revenge. Then, when I left the hospital I found out he lived just two blocks away and I ran into him now and then. One time he was carrying a bottle of milk and I asked him if I could have a sip and he gladly handed it over. It turned out that he had saved rotten milk in his fridge so he could fill a bottle with it and then take it back for a refund. I nearly threw up because of his desire to lie and cheat.

I ended up knowing this guy for a long time. It was hard to let go of friends when I was living marginalized and had few people to talk to. At one point I moved in with a roommate and he kept ending up sleeping on our floor, and being in the way most of the morning. If I didn’t give him permission, he would get permission from my roommate who he barely knew. I was soon ready to carry him off and put him in a dumpster. The bad incidents went on and on, and cumulated in him accusing me of backstabbing and cheating him when he was so clearly in the wrong it was obvious.

It wouldn’t be bad if this was an isolated incident, but this situation kept repeating itself. I had to come to realize that people in the hospital are seriously ill and not necessarily capable of forming a normal friendship. There was one guy who I really liked being friends with, I thought he was the end of the world. We had tons in common, had even been in the same Air Cadet Squadron. But he was a pathological liar. And man, did he tell some doozies. Every day I saw him he told me he had just had sex with another beautiful young woman. On and on he would talk about the money he had, from a farm he supposedly owned to millions of dollars he had made one way or another. He even promised me a job when I left the hospital. I left before him and was unable to contact him, which should have been a good thing. A couple of years later I met him at a camping trip sponsored by the building I lived in. All of a sudden, all the good times and good stories were back, and somehow I believed them.

It might not have been so bad that he was always lying about everything, but the problem was that he wanted to use his lies to control me. Near the end of our friendship, he had me convinced that he had gotten a lawyer to seize a vehicle from a guy that owed me money and that if it weren’t for the fact that I had slept in (I hadn’t) I would have been able to get a cheque for the full amount owed. I had no choice, I had to tell him the friendship was over. He actually tried to convince me that I had to go to a counsellor with him so we could talk about how we crossed each other’s boundaries. He actually thought somehow that by being friends with him we were married or that he owned me. The incidents went on.

It can be so hard to get through those long days in the hospital. I don’t disagree that people should have friends, but I think that you really shouldn’t meet people in the hospital that you continue to be friends with when you leave. There are so many better ways to meet people who will become real friends. I met a lot of people volunteering for my community newspaper. I met my best friend because I worked hard on and then sought help with a book I wrote. Another close friend was someone I simply cared a great deal for who I have been close with for 30 years and we talk every day. I also prefer the company of my family most of the time, the people who will really stick with you through tough times.

If you need a way to get through the long, boring days on a psychiatric ward, consider drawing, doing puzzles, playing board games. Fill up the time in any way you can, you will feel better and get better sooner. I was never any good at drawing until one day a fellow patient suggested I try drawing something, a picture of a tiger, and after a few minutes I was transported to a place where it didn’t matter that I was ill and that I didn’t like my surroundings.

Three times while I was in a psychiatric ward I found romantic partners and learned too late that not only were these people in a vulnerable state, but that soon after leaving the hospital they became ill again and it was literally living hell having a relationship with them.

Another thing I think is important to mention here is that your doctors and nurses are not your friends. You may like them a great deal, and there is nothing wrong with that, it actually may help you recover faster if you feel motivated to take professional advice. But you have to remember that these people are professionals who have strict ethics about how far they are allowed to let the doctor/nurse–patient relationship go. Don’t try and make friends with these people either. Friends mostly come from a shared interest in something, a unique ability to communicate with each other and mutual respect, along with good times. Though they may seem to be nice and treat you well, the sad reality is that they have to treat everyone well and a few years down the road these people will likely not even remember you, they just treat so many people.

I have seen exceptions to this rule, I actually really like my present psychiatrist. She has bought books I wrote and I have loaned her Canadian Poetry books as she is from Scotland and hasn’t experienced Canadian Poetry much. And my nurse/therapist I have known for 30 years and he is a truly exceptional and kind person. But this is in an ongoing clinical setting where I continue to see these people and will pretty much keep seeing them until they retire. I recall running into a former psychiatrist of mine who I had for years and who I had deep respect for. I asked him if since he was retired I could call him “Brian” and he simply said no. But at least he was kind enough to buy, read and write an introduction for one of my books. Sadly though, as much as I respect and admire him, we really aren’t friends.

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