Back Home Most of Our Malls Don’t Have Pirate Ships In ‘Em

DSC00203     The title above is a quote from an extremely hilarious Australian friend I showed our amazing West Edmonton Mall to.  I thought this would be a good photo for today because it is an example of how Edmontonians deal with the extreme weather that this time of year starts to usher in.  It can be very difficult for people living here at these times, partially because of something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a condition where the low sunlight hours actually causes a form of depression to set in that can be quite serious.

Depression is a topic very near to me, when I was just 17 I lost a friend to suicide who I believe must have suffered from it.  Over the years I had serious problems with depression as well, but at first I didn’t understand that it was anything wrong.  I always attributed it to something else and just lived with it, which could have been a very serious and even fatal mistake.  I have a clear memory of going out on a date with a young woman I really liked and then finding out she had no interest in going out with me a second time and really wanting to end it all-over just one date.  Fortunately as time passed and I had other problems, namely my psychosis that caused me to be hospitalized, my Doctors eventually realized that I had severe depressions as well.  I was put on anti-depressants and they helped but it took time.  I think the medication that has made the most difference in me to this date is Prozac.

Right now I am having another kind of difficulty that has to do with my illness and the medications I am on, I have an extreme need for sleep but often I have problems getting to sleep.  I have found some herbal remedies that seem to be working well, including melatonin, skullcap and valerian (anyone with any questions or wanting more information about these please feel free to contact me:  I don’t know too much about the skullcap and valerian other than that when I take them in combination with each other, always being careful not to build up a tolerance to any one herbal remedy, they seem to work well.  It seems sometimes it has been years since I had a full 8 hour sleep, but lately I have had a few of them.

Melatonin was approved for me by my Psychiatrist, I know that it is a naturally occurring sleep hormone and that it can be pretty powerful.  What I have been finding is that if I take too much or take the melatonin too often, it doesn’t make me sleep, it makes me incredibly restless.  The skullcap and valerian seem to help me get longer and more restful sleep but again if I take any of them every night the effects lessen greatly.

One of the problems I run into is that when I am working a lot or under a lot of pressure I need some serious time to decompress.  This weekend I went to see a movie (Bridge of Spies–awesome film!!) with my Dad and slept fairly well when I got home but it has been a very hectic week.  I woke up and had a bit of a stomach ache and so I took some gravol which put me right back to sleep again and I basically slept away all of Saturday, Saturday evening/Sunday morning and most of Sunday.  I do feel pretty renewed now but I hate to think sometimes that I am wasting my life sleeping.  I suppose it doesn’t just have to do with stress, but also the other medications I take, but everything plays a part.  In lieu of a poem I am going to post a second photo below for everyone.

IMG_8044                                       Beautiful Hawaii

The Question of Pills

leif-desk     There is so much about pills these days I thought I could write a whole blog entry on the subject.  Above is a picture of me at my desk and you can clearly see that I am not the thinnest person in the world.  The fact is, I weigh 260 pounds right now and I feel awful about it.  As a young adult, I was 18 and could do 7 chin-ups, 30  push-ups and run for 20 miles if I had to, and that was when I smoked.  Now, though I swim, walk long distances, bicycle longer distances and don’t smoke, I don’t know if I could do any of those things and it really comes down to the weight I gained taking the pills I am on.  Of course a tiny pill doesn’t add any weight to a person, but what my pills do is make me so very weak and hungry that I have to be eating just about all the time.  For some years now I have managed to hover around 250-260 which is better than gaining, but I really wish I could get to a healthier weight.  Most of my younger days, including my adult years right up to age 30 I was 170 pounds, a significant difference.  I met a young woman at a support group once who had been on a medication that caused her to gain weight and switched to another called Lamotragene and she lost a lot of weight.  I thought all my dreams had come true but I went to my Doctor and tried out the drug and it left me so tired I could get very little done.  I have to say though that I am very grateful for the pills that do this, they have kept me from having a serious breakdown for more than 14 years which is incredible and unprecedented with me.  I also take a pill called Prozac, and I feel a bit bad, but the fact is I love this pill.  I take it in the morning and often go back to bed for a few hours because after you take it you have the sweetest, happiest, most perfect dreams.  Instead of my usual nightmares, I have dreams of high school crushes and large amounts of money and all kinds of pleasurable things.  Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.  I am very reluctant though to like any kind of a pill because it seems just about all of them create a dependence, a tolerance to the drug and all kinds of side effects no one may know about for a long time to come.  I find myself taking a lot of ibuprophen and acetominophen for headaches and sometimes these drugs help me sleep a little, but I worry if they make me sleep because of a lack of pain or if they make you sleep because they are sedative.  If they are sedative I am of the mind that I shouldn’t take them.  It seems a bit silly to say this, but I have seen a lot of people who have allowed themselves to get addicted to pills, sadly my own mother was very much a saint in many ways but her and my Dad were of the belief that it was perfectly okay for her to be taking more than 10 kinds of pills despite repeated medical advice.  Anyhow, I should stick to my own problems in this blog, I just want to talk about one more pill, something that I find helpful but again somewhat risky.  It is melatonin, a type of sleep hormone that is very effective in helping insomnia, but I have a strange problem when it comes to sleep.  I am very much subject to milder forms of mania, the kind one gets when you just find yourself talking to fast, laughing too hard at your own jokes and being able to forgo sleep as long as you want to.  If I am in one of these states, often brought on by excessive coffee use, there is little melatonin can do for me, and what it and other pills I have tried to help me sleep does is leave me pretty drowsy the next morning.  I should note though, that melatonin has another interesting side effect, it actually enhances sexual pleasure, but I strongly hope no one takes more than a recommended dose of this pill towards that purpose.  I can notice almost right away with melatonin when I take too much, it is a very unpleasant feeling and can come about just by taking a small dose three days in a row.  You feel extremely restless and can’t sit or lay still and you just about have to get up and pace until the feeling goes away, which could take hours.  I personally cleared use of melatonin with my Psychiatrist and only use it when I am desperate for a sleep solution.  I hope some of this helps my readers treat their illnesses with more care, once again feel free to write me any time you like, I will do my best to answer.   And yes, there will be a poem today, just look below!  (sorry, I will be posting photos of Toronto soon!)


I Can Feel It Coming Back

I once thought all the joys of life were done
But in reality they had just begun
After a time of pain life became just drudgery
I felt so sad for all I would never do or see

But step by inch, life built its way back up
I soon drank from the wellspring of God’s loving cup
I took a chance and flew away far from home
And soon I learned no one really wants to be alone

It was hard at first, I had lost a dear true friend
But love triumphed and we reunited in the end
I thought wealth was passed, happy times were done
It was just a different part of life newly begun

I still recall the moment when it all changed so wonderfully
Those simple words my sister said to me
Next time I see you, an Uncle you will be
From that time on life was happiness and glee

I have to also say I owe two precious friends all I achieved
With their support I did more than I could have believed
One friend had kept a forgotten draft of my book
Another angel friend had an editor take a look

Now I feel I am a valued piece of my beloved home
No longer broke and hurting, no longer all alone
It all took just a little step each day
And the odd marathon of effort I have to also say

Now I’m living proof that though things can knock you down
As long as you believe in you there will be another round
But I ask you don’t forget without love, family and friends
Dreams can come true but won’t fulfill you in the end

There is a trinity called love, hope and work you see
That can make all you dream really come to be
Never tell yourself that you can’t succeed, achieve
What occurs in our lives is always what we believe

Leif Gregersen
August 9, 2015

Riding On A High, Living My Dreams



Well, I attended a small film festival showcasing Aboriginal works last night and it was literally amazing.  The first short film was called ‘Psychosis’ and showed a young woman going insane in the backdrop of both a school and in nature.  I have to say that I don’t watch horror films because normally they don’t phase me, but the images and symbolism of this one freaked me out.  At one point there was a scene where the young woman was sitting beside a grave and they used special effects to make a man that was with her disappear and reappear, it really hit home.  What kind of amazed me was that in these films there was a recurring theme of not only residential schools, but of suicide.  For those who aren’t from Canada, we have a very sore spot in our history where native children were taken from their families and put into residential schools and the whole of the aboriginal nations are still healing from it.

The other film that really stood out was one made in a place called Fort Smith called Mohawk Midnight Runners.  The person who wrote the short story that inspired this film is my good friend Richard Van Camp who has edited and helped with just about everything I have written.  This film was actually about streaking in one way, and in another about depression and suicide.  As the story went, a guy named Paul (sorry I forgot his last name) was a lawyer in this small town and when he had a few drinks he would head down the road jogging naked.  In the film, his friends start a running club where they go out at midnight and run for various causes.  The quality of the filming was superb, very professional and they had rights to use the song “Come On Eileen” which I loved and it was very moving and funny.  What was even more moving was that my friend Richard got up after the film and talked about his friend and about the pain that suicide causes, tears forming in his eyes.  It was a very strong message, a very emotional experience.

What struck home for me was that some years back I had stopped taking my anti-depressant (prozac) and I made a very serious attempt to kill myself.  It hurt my family so much that I decided that was a horrible thing to do.  Later in life, while writing “Through The Withering Storm” my editor commented on a situation where a friend of mine had committed suicide when I was 17 and she said that “suicide is the ultimate form of revenge”.  I don’t think this was true in the case of Richard’s friend, but it may have been in my friend’s death.  I haven’t pieced together everything, but it seemed that my friend (Brad Latta RIP) had lost a girlfriend to a close friend and had been kicked out of his mom’s house and just saw no way out.  I don’t think he intended to hurt so many people and I also have a strong suspicion he had Bipolar Disorder, but it was a terrible tragedy.

Well, I hope I haven’t made anyone feel down with all this dark talk.  Really life is going very well for me.  Yesterday I went to a meeting regarding our local poetry festival (anyone in the Edmonton area contact me for details.. and on Friday I am going to be paid to participate in a panel discussion about mental health awareness.  I am feeling truly happy and truly validated.  I guess I want to say to anyone out there that reads this blog who suffers from mental health issues that there really is hope, there really is healing.  I also am starting to edit a Young Adult Novel I recently completed the first draft of and all is right with the world through my eyes.


Prozac Dreaming


Good day dear readers!  I am extremely grateful that when I announced I would be focusing on less poetry that no one stopped following and I still got some nice posts.  I wanted to breach a topic today that deals with something I feel is extremely important in my life: my medications.  As many of you know, I have Bipolar Disorder, which means I experience extreme highs and extreme lows at times.  For a good number of years I was taking a drug called Paxil, which seemed to work well.  Before that, I was taking Prozac and I didn’t seem to have any problems with it.  The main problem I did have with it was that it worked very well and for a time I thought my depression had gone away (a situation that often happens to those with mental health issues and a very dire situation that I feel needs to be addressed).  So, thinking things were fine, I stopped taking my Prozac and all I can really remember about that time was phoning up a young woman I used to see in high school and learning that she in fact considered me a psychopath.  This led me down a dark and scary path of depression and at the tail end of it I took nearly 100 acetaminophen and nearly destroyed my liver and came very close to death.  The strange thing about it all is that Prozac is kind of a fun drug if one can use such terms.  I was told when first prescribed it to take it first thing in the morning and I soon found that I could take it then, and it would make me a bit sleepy and when I took the drug and went back to sleep I would have the most wonderful dreams anyone could imagine.  The best way I could describe it would be to say it is all ‘sunshine lollipops and rainbows’.  It literally makes a person feel a glow of happiness as though all is right with the world.  Anyhow, being in that ‘glow’ as I write this, I thought some might be interested in hearing about it.

I thought I should write a bit about the writing process today as well.  I don’t know how many of my followers may have read my novella “Green Mountain Road” but despite that a very well known author greatly enjoyed it and I heard a lot of positive feedback about it, a critic tore it to pieces and I had no luck in finding anyone to publish or represent it.  It is an odd thing that opinions could be so varied, but what I chalked it up to was that simply I am a beginning writer and I’m not in a good position to moralize in my writing or try to find some great philosophy.  As when I write my short stories, I should keep things light, entertaining and PG rated, or so I think.  Hopefully learning from my misadventures with “Green Mountain Road”, I have now written two Young Adult novels, one of which is being considered right now for publication, and one that I finished literally just a few hours before writing this blog.  The second one is of course just a very rough first draft, but I honestly think that I have something in trying to appeal to young adults.  I don’t want to get into any great detail of the new work before it is more complete, but basically what I did was toss around a few dozen ideas in my head and then simply sit myself in my chair and start to hammer things out.  I have a strong suspicion that one of the reasons I was able to write a work of some 17,000 words in just two sittings had to do with the fact that I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately.  Sounds disconnected I am sure, but listening to audiobooks can be extremely enjoyable.  Not only that, it teaches a person not only to use their imagination, but also to use their concentration and focus better, or at least I am assuming.  First I was listening to an audiobook about Buddhist meditation which is something wonderful in itself, then I logged onto my local library with my iPad and ‘borrowed’ a book called “The Litigators” by someone who is on fast track to being my favorite author, John Grisham.  I have enjoyed many of Grisham’s novels, I learned recently that he basically invented the legal thriller genre.  I read ‘The Pelican Brief” (in Reader’s Digest condensed form), the King of Torts, The Testament, and a few others, including a short story collection he wrote called “Lincoln County” which I highly recommend to anyone looking for examples of great short stories.  Anyhow, that is my advice for today.  Listen to audiobooks.  Write in your journal, write every day, keep writing, never give up.  I think I go through the whole ‘I think I want to give up writing’ phase at least once every two weeks.  Thankfully I have a lot of support from friends, family, and of course, the incredible Richard Van Camp (author of ‘The Lesser Blessed”).  So, thanks for visiting, please comment if you would like to see me introduce contests on this blog to win copies of my works.