Psychiatry

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.

 

END

 

A Little Bit About Music For Those Who Are Sick of Hearing About Coronavirus

Hello Dear Readers! Just experimenting with a new format, you can click any of the highlighted links in the following blog, I just ask that you keep in mind that these items are copyrighted and it would be great if you could support the makers of these materials by buying a book or CD of theirs. Enjoy and let me know what you think of blogs made in this way

 

Bob Seger’s Roll Me Away

Roll me away. This is a song about, among other things, a motorcycle trip for someone who is feeling lost and doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the world. I think a lot of people, not just those who suffer from a mental illness have that deep-seated desire to get on a bike and leave everything behind. I know that one of the most amazing and magical books I ever read was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” not just because it was the very first book I ever read that spoke of mental illness, but also because of the glamorizing of the idea of exploring the US on a motorbike. I have had a few bikes, and the time I spent riding them represented some of my happiest times. Below is another version of the best bike I ever had, a 1978 Honda 750-four. I loved everything about motorbikes, the power, the open air, the feeling of freedom. The bike was, for lack of a better term, good medicine. But sadly eventually my mental illness got the better of me and I became too timid on the bike, unable to ride it even at normal highway speeds due to anxiety.1978 Honda CB750 Four | T48 | Las Vegas 2014

another song that means a lot to me is a Bruce Springsteen creation, Born to Run I love how Bruce starts out the video version, he says, “Remember in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins” One of the things that draws me to Bruce Springsteen is that not only does he seem to suffer from depression, perhaps even bipolar disorder, but also that he has a social conscience, and I suspect he leans pretty far left. When I was a teen I was completely obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, I can recall writing out the lyrics so I could memorize them. One day I was in a class in high school and I sang this song as best I could and a girl that heard me sing it had a tear run down her face. The song is about young people and their mating dance and how cars end up defining people and many other things, but I one aspect of this song shines out, that is the mention of suicide. When you listen to a lot of Bruce Springsteen, whether this is something intentional or fictional or not, you can really get an idea of what severe depression as a diagnosed illness can be like. When I was 17 I had the best possible car a person could have, I had some great friends, an awesome job, but it all seemed to be slipping away from me and I couldn’t shake the feeling of deep, debilitating sadness. Anyone who experiences this and has had the proper treatment and is in recovery from depression should read a book I picked up recently called Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny. She does an almost endless amount of research on clinical depression and other mental illnesses and tells her own story of being a journalist while suffering from her mental illness. I count myself very lucky because my depression is extremely well controlled by anti-depressants, which allows me to get treatment for my other issues, but in the end, music is my healer.

There is another song that means a great deal to me by a man who, from what I understand, is a friend of Bruce Springsteen’s, called Running on Empty by Jackson Browne there are so many lyrics in this song that really speak to me. He sings about love, about the open road, about things that every person is either doing in one way or another (running away from life–in a car.) it seems to take the influence of a lot of popular culture that is expressed in other ways. One of the biggest things that brought me to this music, this song in particular is that I think it was on the Forrest Gump Soundtrack. I went through a period in my life when I did nothing but run away–I hitch hiked to the coast, I travelled the western states, and one of the things that was my only solace at the time, I ran. I ran ridiculous distances, pounding away at the pavement night after night. The runner’s high was pretty amazing, but deep inside I was hurting terribly and I ended up running so much that I injured my knees to the point where I had a lot of trouble just walking for years to come. The weirdest thing was that after I went on my journeys, there was no more home to return to, no real place where I was welcomed. I recall when I was only on the coast for a couple of months and had to come home to take care of some stuff and when I got off the bus my whole family was there to welcome me. It never happened like that again, in fact one time I made it back to Edmonton while I was struggling with my mental health I had to almost sign my life away just to get a ride to a hospital from my sister’s boyfriend.

Well, I hope you like the format I did today’s blog in. Please feel free to write to me and comment on if you prefer it or not. I can see myself putting in more YouTube links to help describe some of the mental health issues I have gone through and those I have recovered from. My address as always is viking3082000@yahoo.com and I hope you stay healthy. The most important part of what is going on right now is that you follow the rules: don’t come close to others, do your best to sterilize and/or wash everything you can, including indoor surfaces, doorknobs, even your food, and stay inside. Best wishes everyone!

 

 

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

New Book Exploring a Recent Psychiatric Ward Admission and a Month Battling Psychosis

Hello Dear Readers! Well, it is with great joy that I introduce to you my latest book, which tells of a recent hospital admission to an Edmonton Hospital in 2019. I had grand plans for this book, but I decided that it was more important to get it out to my readers and to those who suffer with or love someone that suffers with severe psychosis or other mental health difficulties. It is in this spirit that I have put the book up for sale on Amazon for only $12 in paperback and for the next couple of days the eBook is free. After the time when it is free, the eBook will be just $1.49.

The book is something that was inspired by the book “Girl, Interrupted” (not the movie, the book). I decided I wanted to really show the mind of a person who is ill, and so I took poetry I wrote by hand during my stay in the hospital and added commentary to it, as well as put in other poems I wrote at other times, then several essays, introductions from some family members and even copies of my clinical notes. The title, “Alert and Oriented X3” comes from a term that my nurse used several times to describe the state of my mental health in the clinical notes. There are 5 ways you can be ‘alert and oriented’ and I seemed to come up as just a 3 a number of times.

I have felt extremely blessed to have so much support from you my readers and my friends and family to write and to give talks about mental health in Universities and Training Centres that I really just want as many people as possible to enjoy the book regardless of cost to me. If you keep checking back, I may be able to put on some giveaways at this site and mail out some select copies in the hopes that you will leave a review for it on amazon.com. I will also be making the eBook free, and if you like it and recommend it, I have also decided not to set it up so it can’t be copied, so please feel free to share the file you purchase with anyone you know who would be interested.

One small drawback to the current form of the book is that I wrote it for people living in Edmonton and in Canada. Most of the book is completely relevant to anyone reading it anywhere, but there are small sections where I put in some contact details for local resources that will be irrelevant to most non-Canadians. If you would like to get in touch with resources for helping you through any kind of mental health struggle, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do the best I can. You can also contact me at this email if you would like a free digital copy of the book. Happy reading friends, looking forward to seeing what you think of the book which I had to go to hell and back to write.

Leif Gregersen