Schizophrenia

Living With a Combination of Schizophrenia, Bipolar and Anxiety Can Get Interesting

Well, I actually haven’t had all that much happen today that was interesting. The highlight of my day was finishing reading another Lee Child, Jack Reacher novel. I have taken up reading again as of late and it always feels good when I finish reading anything of sufficient length. For some strange reason, in the past years I fell out of love with books. I still bought just about as many and I still brought home any free ones but I haven’t been reading novels in years. Finding this amazing character “Jack Reacher” has made things easier, though I have read other stuff. Among the books I have been reading recently I have to include “Girl, Interrupted” and “The Collected Schizophrenias” I have been working on a book review for “The News Station” online magazine and these two were of particular interest. “Girl, Interrupted” is a very gripping tale of a young woman coming to terms with borderline personality disorder while in a psychiatric hospital. “The Collected Schizophrenias” is a study of schizophrenia and also a life story of a woman who experiences it. Regardless of how easy it is or how much information is available, I have never found anything to work better than reading an entire book on a subject to familiarize ones’ self with the subject.

There was something interesting that happened to me today. I did a simple buy in the stock market of a very stable stock and took advantage of a very small price move but with a high number of shares and made about $130.00. The markets are so fascinating to me, they are all about numbers, and I constantly work out numbers in my head. What amazes me is that in the past couple of weeks I have owned everything from a share in Uranium mines in Mongolia to Oil wells in South America, not only without leaving my apartment, but without having any knowledge at all in how these businesses are conducted. Normally this would be a recipe for disaster, but I have been buying and selling on how much hype the stock gets rather than anything to do with the stock’s actual profitability. One of the things I find myself worried about is how fast inflation is coming at us, at the gas pumps, in the grocery store and many other places. I thank my lucky star I live in supportive housing, don’t have a car and live alone. The average bills of a family of five like the one I grew up in would break me in short order.

Sometimes that is all it comes down to… Did I do better than my parents? I can answer that with a no, especially since for years my dad was a successful businessman and my mom worked many meaningful jobs.

The thing about the stock market and me… Some people warn me of the risks and caution me. My main problem with it is that playing the stock market can be just about as bad as playing a game of roulette or even Russian roulette if the stakes are high enough. Not all that long ago I had a problem with gambling addiction. It took me years of forcing myself to avoid any place that had gambling, which was a lot of places since the Liquor and Gaming Board has video lottery terminals in most bars. But I forced myself and I am glad for it. A lot of the time it came down to the temptation of simply riding the bus home. When I arrived, there was a number of bars with VLTs that I could stop in at and maybe make a couple of bucks. Not that I would ever stop after just making a couple of bucks. Any former or current addicted gambler knows that it is a sin to leave a place with even a quarter in your pocket.

So basically what I had to do was to get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk the extra distance, trying not to think of gambling. This was fairly easy, all I had to do was keep something on my mind that was more powerful than gambling. So I would fill my head with images of supermodels and former love interests and soon it became easy to go past the bars with VLTs in them. It also didn’t hurt that I soon realized after working in a bar that a somewhere like that is not a good place to meet friends or potential life partners. I kept on running into guys who knew more about ripping people off than they did about the job they worked at. The women in bars, if they aren’t raging alcoholics yet, were often cruel and insulting. At a certain point in my life I decided that as good as all the young women may look, I simply can’t focus my life around a place founded on mutual alcohol consumption. That made it easier to quit drinking, easier to quit gambling and smoking and I am amazed now at how much extra money I have.

Most people out there have a place in mind of where they would like most to live. I often think of the suburban city I grew up in and what it would be like to live on the millionaire side of the city. But for many reasons, friends, love interests, different ideas from our spouse, it doesn’t come true. The sad fact is that 99% of us have to make the most out of what is dropped in our laps. The thing is, just about anything can be good or bad. I have a job opportunity coming up that I just can’t make it to. When I think of not having this job, I try to emphasize to myself that I am already earning close to the limit my disability pension allows, and it will be so much better to have that extra time to complete other projects.

Just about any situation can be treated this way. I joked recently to a friend that I was so positive that if someone told me I was going to die by Saturday I would be happy that this week I wouldn’t have to worry about doing dishes on Sunday.

But to go back to the stock market, I have been coasting on luck and I fear that soon I am going to make a bad deal in it and end up in trouble. One thing I do know is that over this past week I had bought a stock that turned out to be a lot more volatile than it seemed it would be. I bought it at $1.76. While I taught a class over my computer, I was checking the stock in my breaks. It went so low I almost wanted to pause the class so I could sell it. But I held on, and by the end of the day the stock had regained all its losses. I could have been just a little more patient and turned a profit, but I has glad to get out unscathed. What I couldn’t believe was all the pressure and risk I was taking with a volatile stock. Once again though, this anxiety and fear from risking large amounts of money causes neurotransmitters to work double time. There are so many more negative things about getting involved in stocks when the simple truth is that you are more likely to do well running a family business and investing in a home than by thinking you can beat other traders who are just about as devious and shark-like as anyone can get. And if you let yourself become addicted to the experience, you will keep coming back for more punishment.

What To Do When Schizophrenia Ruins a Perfectly Good Holiday.

Schizophrenia is an illness that can get in the way of so many things. I know that by sheer numbers, there are people out there reading this blog that have spent holidays alone, perhaps because they we’re estranged from family members, or they just couldn’t handle another night of having their foibles pointed out.

When I think of schizophrenia ruining a holiday, I think back to Christmas of 1989. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but an argument put an end to a huge feast and by the time the night was over I had to sell my precious Ford Cobra to try and get a place to stay. I was deeply scarred by that experience, and I don’t want to blame my dad or myself. I do want to blame schizophrenia and the boiling pot of madness my mind was in at that time. Although it perhaps wouldn’t have been as bad if I didn’t have the usual teenage idea in my head that the world revolved around me and that I knew more than people who had been around long before I was born.

Now, I should mention that on Sunday I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, one I will cherish in memory for a long time to come. All I did was go over to my dad’s place where just him and I sat down for a fairly simple meal. It was a pretty special occasion because my dad is getting older by the day it seems and I worry deeply how much more time we will have with him.

One of the biggest things of late that has forced me to reconsider and forgive my dad for whatever mistakes he may have made is my latest book (which is available by clicking on the photo of London’s famous Tower Bridge Right on this page). I had my dad write an intro for it and I really didn’t have any idea of how much my dad really did care and really did try and help me.

On to different things though. I have to say that my life has gotten busy and it seems to be the best thing that could have happened. I’m teaching a course, taking two courses and also working for The Schizophrenia Society, and I have been developing a recent interest in reading thrillers. For those who haven’t discovered him yet, I want to take this opportunity to mention Lee Child, author of the ‘Jack Reacher’ series. The books have about 20 volumes, and the main character (who is played by Tom Cruise in the movies) is absolutely fascinating. In the book he is very far from the interpretation Cruise gave in the movies, in fact I had heard that when told that Cruise would be playing the lead role, Lee Child reacted by saying, “Tom Cruise is too short and too old to play Jack Reacher.” I have to agree, but regardless, these books are incredibly entertaining. It is hard to describe the main character, but he is sort of a minimalist. He owns nothing, has no job or income and is constantly on the go from one place to another until a situation happens that causes him to stay in one place. When he stays in these places, he usually gets mixed up in some serious trouble, and how his mind works and the things he does are amazing to witness. Definitely thumbs up on this author.

So it is now around 3am and I am up drinking tea. In the morning the stock exchange opens and I want to be there to keep a close eye on a stock I am holding. It is funny because just a short while ago (it seems) I knew a lot about the markets and buying and selling, but things have exploded since then. (it was actually 20 years ago). There are now so many ways to invest and I keep hearing about exchange traded funds and other instruments that simply didn’t exist when I was investing. I suppose all I really have to say about all that is stock markets and investments can quickly become addictive. Addictions like this one could cost more money than a cocaine habit.

Well, I suppose I should end today’s blog with some information about mental health. I seem to be experiencing some of my better days. Part of it may have to do with the fact that I have been using CBD oils before bed. Somehow they have taken my generally poor attitude towards everything and smoothed it out. To put it simply, things don’t piss me off like they used to. Peace of mind is such a gift, and it leads to so many other aspects of a person’s life falling into place.

Another thing I should mention is my sleep. This too has been going up and down. One of the things I am finding is the hardest to do is to sleep when I know a critical day is coming up. Fortunately, being Canadian Thanksgiving, I have tomorrow off, but Tuesday I am right back to work. What I think I really need to focus on in the next while is putting my foot down when it comes to sleep. I need to stop taking naps, they are ruining my ability to sleep at night. Caffeine and snack foods need to be taken right out of my evening routine, and I need to start getting to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. I know that if I can get a handle on sleep that I can then begin to tackle other problems, like booking more talks online.

Well, I want to mention one thing that is kind of cool outside of all that. I met with a woman named Brenda not too long ago and helped her set up a self-published book she made as a surprise for her 94 year-old mother who wrote the poems published in it. It was such an interesting and rewarding experience that I have taken out a classified ad in Write Click magazine to help anyone wanting to self-publish a book for a small fee.

Well, dear readers, I feel a bit like I have ripped you off,I didn’t talk much about mental health or recovery. I think the only advice I have at all today is for you to keep an eye out for a sunny day and grab a sweater and get outside in the beautiful fall colours (if you live in the same hemisphere as I do) and just get out and walk. Listen to the sounds of children playing, of the wind in the yellowed leaves. Feel the crunch of fallen leaves as you walk and please don’t be afraid to walk in the gutter where the best crunching is to be found. Take a little while and just be. I can’t guarantee anyone the existence of God or any other divine spirit, but I do know that beauty and mindfulness is something that will serve anyone well. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Living One More Boring Day With Schizophrenia

Well, actually today wasn’t really bad at all. I am starting to get concerned about my sleep habits though. To be on the ball, I need 7 hours or so, but it seems that I am just not getting it, unless I nap. A number of people I know don’t nap, but I love doing it. There truly are times when I shouldn’t nap, but one of the main causes of my napping has to do with just not having anything interesting to do. That’s why I wanted to write this blog. Right there I have touched on a key issue. I need to be interested. I need to be stimulated. Serious problem. Let me explain.

Years ago I fell into a crowd that I would say at best was neutral, but at worst was a complete disaster. It was AA. I went to a lot of meetings. Hundreds. The worst part was that they would have the meetings at night and when you were there, the only thing you could really do was drink coffee. Soon after joining I literally became a coffee addict. I am doing a lot better now, having half of my daily beverages as tea or other stuff. Part of the problem came in after I got back from the meeting and had nothing to do. I would walk a long way, get a comic book at the book store, then go to the arcade. Still on that caffeine high, I would go home, read my comic, then watch TV until late. As long as I was going to meetings though, my landlord was happy. He did have some problems though. One of them was that he would let himself into my room when I left it locked without any notice. I told him he couldn’t do that and he replied, “It’s my house, I can do whatever I want.” This infuriates me even now, especially when a more recent caretaker was in my building and I came home one day to find him leaving my suite and locking my door. I don’t know if I would harm a person for this sort of thing, but it is entirely possible that I will consult my underground book “Revenge” one day to pay some of these people back.

To get back on track, when I was staying up all night (living on social services, not looking for work) my landlord was also my AA sponsor. It was his job to advise me and help me work the steps. I actually have a lot of respect for AA I should say here, but I had some very serious, very risk-filled problems that started with me making friends with people from AA. I love the book though, it is what the program is founded on and has a ton of wisdom. There are few books like it, one of them is “The Richest Man in Babylon” and another is The Holy Bible.

So anyhow, I was in AA for a while when I started going to Casinos. Though I didn’t really have much of a drinking problem, I didn’t want to drink any alcohol, but I saw the Casino as a place to pick up some easy money. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I think where it really started in earnest was when I watched the movie, “Casino” with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci. All the glamour and glitter of gambling seemed so exciting. It seemed like it would be an easy thing for a disciplined person like me to skim off a decent living working and/or hanging out in casinos. The truth was, I would go to one, play for a very long time, and often lose my shirt. That was the way it worked. I knew the odds when you play a game in the casino are only slightly in the house’s favour, but that just made me think all I had to be was a little bit lucky. The truth was that if the odds are slightly towards the house winning, over time the house will take all of your money. And I subjected myself to the torture and degradation of not being able to properly control my own money. At one time a doctor even intervened and had all of my finances taken over by a trustee.

So anyhow, I was talking about my old place and my first sponsor. When I was gambling, he noticed that whenever we got together I would get restless. I would fidget, pace around, smoke a lot. He was wise enough to see that I had accustomed myself to the excitement and adrenalin of playing casino games. What I had to do was to simply stop thinking about the casino or any of the games. This was how I quit smoking once, and how I was able to use a lot of discipline by redirecting thoughts. What I would do was when any thought of gambling came to mind, I would think of something that was more powerful, like a girl I liked naked. I even spent a lot of time journalling and deep in thought regarding money. After a lot of thinking, I realized that money really isn’t important.

As time went on though, even among my family and friends, I have come to be known as someone that likes to make money, likes to get paid for things. I am always willing to give a day’s work for a day’s pay, but I have often had opportunities to make ten days pay for an hour’s work as a writer. Still, that doesn’t mean I will give up working, even for free. But what it does mean is that I am conscious that money is needed in some aspects of a person’s life, and things like strength, courage, ethics, morals, and study are needed at others.

Where the problem comes in is when I decided to start saving and investing my money. I had been told a lot about ETF’s or exchange traded funds, which give a decent return after a year’s time, so I consulted with a friend’s dad who convinced me to buy individual stocks. I bought a few of his suggestions, and some made a little money, some lost a little money. All the while as I did this, I tried to learn a little about day trading. It seemed fairly simple. Look for a bargain, buy some shares, sell when they get a bump.

I made a few trades, and things went extremely well. I did suffer a loss of a few hundred dollars but I pulled out. I wanted to stop. It was extremely time consuming to sit and watch a stock to see if it is going to go up at all, and anxiety causing to see it go down. I realized I was triggering a lot of the same emotions and reactions from my casino days. I talked to a friend who was going to help me stop gambling but we didn’t follow through. I started checking stocks I had sold to see what they were at in the present day, and I even started doing a lot of reading in financial information. I have this theory that stock markets aren’t gambling because over time, most stocks will gain. And there are often anomalies out there that you can find if you are patient that can give significant returns with very little downside or loss of investment.

So basically Dear Readers, that is the tough nut I need to crack. A person can’t trade and let it get to him. He will be dead in months. And someone with my lack of experience shouldn’t trade so eagerly in volatile stocks. Now, as I write, it is 1:33 AM. I can’t sleep. The market opens at 7:30am and there are stocks I need to keep a close eye on. I am near the point of not really knowing what to do. It is exciting, it is fun, you really can make money, but I can’t tell you if the cost counted in quality of life is worth becoming a trader. More to come. Remember, Jesus saves, Moses invests. (forgive me Jesus, couldn’t resist).

Never Get Complacent About the Mental Illness of You or a Loved One

Well, I have to admit it, I have been getting complacent, so I thought it would be a good time to sit down and write. I have some bad news off the top, it looks like there is really no way I am going to have my new book, “Voted Off the Crew” ready for the launch date. On the good side of that, I am having it professionally edited and I think the end result of what will become of the book will be something my readers will enjoy more and I will be more proud of.

As for me, I have been isolating a lot but doing some writing that I really think might help make a difference. I have written essays for the websites, “OC87 Recovery Diaries” and “The News Station”. It feels good to publish, especially since in the case of the above, I am publishing about my mental health experiences. But I almost feel I need to shock myself into getting off my butt and getting down to doing more with each precious day I have.

I think it is something that people with mental illnesses are prone to, for a couple of days all I did was lay in bed. At first I gave myself the excuse that it was because I had a headache, which was true, then I had some pretty severe stomach pains and wanted to use that as an excuse to lie around, but when I got up and went for a mid-day walk, I soon forgot about any headache and my stomach pain went away.

I am not saying that everyone out there with health issues is being weak or lazy, but I am thinking that sometimes when you get into a rut it can be really helpful to get some fresh air and exercise. I love taking walks because they are fairly low-impact and you don’t need any fancy equipment, most of the time you don’t even need to change. You just head out your door and plan not to be back for an hour more or less.

A close friend who was both a medical student and a lifeguard once told me that in the case of just about everything, exercise is the best medicine. Of course there are limits, but if you find yourself in a funk and you aren’t doing anything constructive, try and get a little exercise in. There are also things you can do around the house that can be very beneficial and simple. You can lean against a wall and push away from it, doing what I call ‘low-impact push-ups’ you can do sit-ups, use tension to push your arms against each other at the fists or another point to build tone and strength. You can even find a second hand Yoga mat or invest a few bucks in a new one and go along with some of the many Youtube videos of Yoga classes.

Fortunately, my recent complacency hasn’t made me miss any of my doses of medication. If that happens to you, do your best to resume your medication at the point you are at. Don’t try and catch up and take a couple off doses, if it is Tuesday, start with Tuesday’s dose and move on. If you have been off medications and notice you are experiencing severe depression or voices, paranoia, or any of your old symptoms, either get to see your doctor as soon as you can or get to an emergency room, it could be a long wait, but there will be psychiatrists on call who can assess you and see what the next best course of action should be.

So I am hoping my words will be helpful. Getting complacent is a dangerous place to be in, a person should always remember what things were like when they were in a hospital setting or otherwise having a hard time and make an honest decision as to whether or not they want to go back to all that. Mental and physical health, which are deeply related, need daily and careful maintenance. If you are off your medications and not feeling good about yourself, find a way to see a doctor, and make a phone call before you do anything. There are crisis lines in Canada and the US that can help you through these difficult times, all you need to do is google, dial, reach out, and there will be someone there to listen.

The number for the suicide help line in Canada is: 1(833)456-4566

In the US, the number is: 1(800)273-TALK (8255)

Sleeping Medication and Side Effects

One of the main problems that comes along with depression is insomnia. I have experienced mild to severe insomnia for most of my life. I even recall being a very young boy and not being able to tell time, but watching a clock tick while my parents were downstairs still awake, and thinking to myself, “Well, it can’t be midnight yet, that would be impossible.” It likely was midnight or later, but to me it seemed careless and dangerous to not be in bed by that time.

Growing up, my brother and I shared a room and we used to do things like fight, read, play music or have the lights on after the time we were supposed to have gone to sleep. Finally my dad got sick of coming up the stairs with each noise and decided I would go to bed with my mom who always retired early to read, then when my dad came up, he would carry me to bed already asleep. It worked pretty good. I have a lot of fond memories of talking with my mom and drifting off to sleep and magically waking up in my own bed.

One of the reasons I used to have insomnia was that when I was in elementary school and part of junior high, I hated school. I loved doing schoolwork, I loved learning things, but I had bullies that made me almost afraid to return to school after a weekend. At one point I recall being in tears Sunday evening not wanting to return to school.

High school was when the real problem started, and I blame the great lineup of TV we used to have where I grew up. They had David Letterman, then The Honeymooners, then The Twilight Zone, the Phil Silvers Show and more. Soon it became hard for me to not stay up and watch these shows. I had a routine where after my dad went to bed, I would go in the bathroom, flush the toilet, and with the sound of flushing I would sneak downstairs. I would make tea, eat hot dogs, do my push-up workout routine, then as school time approached, I would convince myself I could take on some huge project like reading the encyclopedia that I never followed through with.

As an adult, after I had spent time in a psychiatric hospital, I was put on sleeping pills, along with a few other meds. After a while, I decided to wean myself off of them, which was extremely difficult. I met a doctor once who told me she had her clients not just break their pills in half to gently lower their dose, she also suggested they file them down with an emery board a little at a time. These things were powerful!

Off and on, I went through a number of periods where I would take something to help me sleep and when I didn’t. In more recent years I have found a system that works fairly well.

Before sitting down to write today’s post, I looked at the website for the Mayo clinic, and was very surprised. Just about all medications for sleep cause dependence. There was just one in a list of ten or so medications that didn’t, but it only helped people get to sleep, it didn’t help them stay asleep. At the moment, I have the option of taking a small dose of clonazepam (or rivotril) every other day to help me sleep, but it really hasn’t been enough. I now have also been given doctor’s permission to use melatonin. now and then as well. My doctor literally told me he had done a lot of research on melatonin and that he recommends it. Melatonin often helps me get to sleep, but when I wake up it is often very difficult to get out of bed. Another doctor upon hearing this has suggested I take my melatonin an hour before going to bed, I haven’t tried this to be honest.

If I can at all do it, I want to sleep without extra sedation, but sadly even my regular medications have a sedative side effect. When I take medications in this case, I often worry if I will overdose which is unlikely because I never go over the recommended amount. Then comes the worst part of sleeping medication: it can adversely affect your memory. Memory is something I have taken a lot of pride in since I was young. I have long, detailed, vivid memories of grade one, and what part of my elementary school my class was in, the first day my friends and I organized a football game in the field. But I’m starting to lose my ability to remember short-term things. It is very common for me to walk into a room and not remember why I went there. I don’t really find it that scary, but I do know I have not only had some street drugs in my past, I have suffered from concussions a few times, and that I have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. My Uncles, and my grandfather had it, and I can see the signs that my dad is coming down with it too. So I don’t really know if any of these things, or even if there is a combination of all of them is causing my memory loss.

What I do know is that it is extremely hard for me to function when I don’t take things to help me sleep. If I don’t somehow sedate myself enough to rest, I often either sleep in or can’t function in my day to day activities. Fortunately, for some reason, I haven’t had as much trouble sleeping in. I don’t know if it is caused by my dependence to my sleeping meds, or just something that happens with age. I had looked into getting a sleep study done, but I was on a year-long waiting list, and when my appointment time came up, I was unable to make it or re-book. That is one part of Canadian Health Care I resent, the waiting times. I honestly feel that the Alberta Government, in their never-ending quest to save a few pennies on the backs of our most needy citizens, has cut funding in key places that makes these waiting lists necessary. I don’t like to talk about it too much, but my own mother passed away while just 2 days away from a procedure that would have saved her life.

One thing I do often do is try and have a ‘medication holiday’. I don’t stop any of my psychiatric medications, but I do try and fall asleep without medication. It isn’t easy, and I will often sleep much more than normal, but it often feels so refreshing that I wish I could do it all the time. In fact though, I kind of have to be very exhausted from getting poor quality sleep for this to work. This brings me to my final point about sleeping pills. I am of course no doctor and no espert, but one thing I have learned is that our bodies need REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is at this time that we dream and certain chemicals in our brains are renewed. I once read a study about researchers who prevented test subjects from getting REM sleep and the results were astounding. Soon, these people became unable to function and after a while longer, they could no longer be woken up. My take on this? We need to dream whether we remember the dreams or not. If we don’t dream, it is as though we didn’t get any sleep. I would like to invite any specialists in sleep to comment on this. I am currently auditing a “Masterclass” on the importance of sleep, so expect to see more of these posts soon, and sleep well and take care!

Isolation, Depression, and Boredom. It’s Been Happening to Everyone

So, a great deal of us have been affected by the Pandemic, but there are others to whom isolation and depression are practically fatal. In more cases than people realize.

It was more than twenty years ago. At the time, I had few friends and even the friends I had I didn’t connect with all that well. One of the things I was trying to do at the time was to live within my means, which was simply a small cheque each month from Canada Pension Plan disability. The most serious problem? Boredom had overtaken me and I found a temporary fix: gambling. This was possibly the worst thing I could ever do in my situation.

There was something so mysterious and glamorous about gambling. I was a huge James Bond fan, and it seemed that even in the books written years before by Ian Fleming, James Bond had uncanny luck with gambling, and knew the games well enough to waltz into any Casino and Waltz out richer than when he came in.

My own gambling wasn’t as dramatic. As a way to balance the budget, the Provincial Government where I live brought in gambling machines called VLTs. On Each of these machines, you could play one of five games, bet as little as a quarter and as much more as you wanted. These machines used scientifically tested prompts to draw people in and keep them feeding dollar coins into them. The level of addiction I experienced, with the flashing lights and bells when you won even the smallest amount of coins, was devastating.

I didn’t spend a lot of money–unless it was one of the rare times when I had a lot of money. I was spending around $10 a day, but when living on disability and not working, $10 was far too much. I have this image in my head from after a loss, I didn’t feel myself valuable enough to sit on a chair, I sat down on the dirty floor near the entrance to my apartment, curled up, wanting to harm myself, wanting my life to end because I had an addiction that had me by the throat and was slowly draining everything out of my life.

Eventually, I would go to bed but when I woke up, there was the old addiction again, and I would do anything–pawn things for 1/10th their value, lie to my parents to get them to lend/give me money. I was at rock bottom. I don’t know why, but it seems that people who already have mental illnesses seem really prone to such emotional/mental based addictions. One day, putting my last money into a machine, I decided when this money was gone I needed to find help. Of course the money went like water through my fingers and I called up Gambler’s Anonymous. I have so much good to say about those meetings, I made some great friends there, and being able to listen to other people’s journey and tell about my own was very helpful. But there was something that I want to mention here that makes it difficult for people with mental illnesses to quit addictions: The people in these meetings can help you quit gambling or drinking or overeating, whatever problem you want to work on in the appropriate 12-step meeting. The problem is, and this isn’t a detraction towards any of these groups–the problem is that when you go to these 12-step meetings, they assure you they can help you modify your behaviour, and that they have a plan for you to rebuild your life, but you have to remember that not all your problems stem from your addiction. Stopping the addiction is great, but you still have to take medications, and you still will have side effects from them. I quit a few things, I quit drinking, smoking, gambling. I went to meetings for each of these, which was amazing, it helps so much to have peer support, but I used a method that I wasn’t taught by any of the 12-step groups, which was fine with them. I have this method I am sure a lot of people have also done and refined more than I have: what I did was I simply stopped allowing myself to even think about these addictions after I stopped them. I first used it at age 17 to quit smoking. What I did was I carefully kept an eye on what I was thinking about, and then if a thought about smoking came up in my head, I would replace the thought with another, non-smoking image that was more powerful. At the time what I did was think about a young woman I really liked, and put a vivid image in my head of her in all her prettiness, and after hours turned to days and days into weeks, I had conquered one of the most insidious addictions. Later in life, another thing I did to deal with my addictions was of course to attend meetings. (I actually taught a class where a guy who had no addiction issues would go to a 12-step meeting just to be able to talk to others in a non-judgemental way–this can be so powerful in healing). The more dedicated people in meetings will often tell you that you need to treat your addictions for the rest of your life, but after a year of intense meeting attendance, I used what I learned to stay quit on my own, and now it has been years since a drink, a bet, or a cigarette. I took a lot of the money I saved and bought myself a reward, a car.

So all that is just one of the roads a person can go down when they are on their own and suffer from addictions. It is good to quit, and it is good to attend meetings, but personally I don’t suggest that once you feel okay with your quitting that you still have to go to three meetings a day–unless you want to. I think that once you are comfortable about quitting, because of the fact that often the stories and the people inside 12-step meetings can be non-productive or negative, I suggest you look into new ways to build a sense of community. I hate to say it but there were a few people I met at these meetings who really took advantage of me, and had little desire to help me, they just wanted to appear to help so they could throw their help in my face when I got sick of their controlling nature. Whew, that was a pretty damning statement. Anyhow, when you have conquered your addictions/habits, I think it is best to look into things like a swimming or diving class, lessons in a sport or in Yoga so you can not only improve your health and how you feel, you can meet others your age to connect with who hopefully don’t carry as much baggage or desire to relapse as people in meetings. It can be hard at first to get yourself known enough in the community to make friends, but it is all based on just treating all others with respect, offering uplifting or encouraging wisdom to new friends and neighbours, volunteering (I volunteer for my community newspaper and love it) and a few others.

Of course, if you find you are experiencing an addiction, the first person you should tell about it before going to meetings trying to heal yourself is your psychiatrist/physician. I know in Alberta, they can connect people with support, counselling, and many other things. I had a doctor who had me go into a stop smoking program and because they offered me two support groups, a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions (they now may be able to get you free nicotine patches as well) and any prescriptions I needed, and I was able to successfully quit. Quitting drinking was a little more difficult, possibly because there is such a lot of societal marketing of alcohol. If needed, I could have gone into a program they would most likely offer anywhere in North America, it is called a dual-diagnosis program for quitting, this means they will take into consideration your mental health diagnosis while helping you quit.

Quitting all these things that we often began doing. because of isolation and boredom, will start to pay off right away. It will positively impact your health, increase your disposable income, and even help your medications to work better for you. And look on the very bright side, if you take the time now to deal with your addictions successfully, when the world starts to wake up post-covid, you will be ready and well-equipped to enjoy the return to freedom.

All the best dear readers!

So I Reached A Critical Stage In My Recovery, I Feel Okay. What Comes Next?

Purchase Link for book: http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB

Hello Dear Readers! Well, before I launch into today’s topic, I wanted to thank whoever went online and purchased 2 copies of “Alert and Oriented x3” and 2 copies of “Inching Back to Sane.” This may seem like a small thing, but each time I make a sale like this is a huge victory for me. It means that someone out there who doesn’t really know me is taking a chance that my writing will be good, and I hope I don’t disappoint. It also means I earn a little money that I didn’t have to break my back for, and this means groceries, bills, and more writing supplies.

So, I don’t know if I have really talked about when a person has been through all the bad their illness throws at them and finds themselves stuck in some kind of weird limbo. Of course, the most important thing at this point, which I hope you learned in earlier stages of your illness, is that you continue to see a Doctor and take medications as prescribed.

I ran into some very serious trouble once not doing that. I decided it was too much effort to wake up and cross the city on a bus to see my Psychiatrist. All he really did was talk for a few minutes and renew my prescription. So I stopped seeing him. No one came and tracked me down, and I was still getting my prescriptions, they were just being filled by my family doctor. After a while, with no one qualified to go to for an opinion, I cut back on one of my medications. I didn’t stop it, I just cut the dose in half because it seemed to be making me too tired. Serious. mistake. What I didn’t know, and what my doctor would have told me is that the drug I stopped (depekane) only worked at a certain level in my blood stream and that a simple test would have shown me this critical medication wasn’t working. Then end result was that I ended up getting sicker than ever before and spending 6 months of my life in a hospital. Don’t take chances with your mental health. Find a doctor you can work with, commit to seeing him or her, and take medications as prescribed. There is really no other path to recovery if you have a major mental illness like schizophrenia.

But now there is a lighter side to all of this. Your recovery process can be amazing. One thing I wanted most to do when I felt myself feeling better was to give talks about my experiences. I started out writing short stories about things that happened to me, and I developed them into a loose collection, which became the book you see above (http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB for more information) further to that, I got involved with the schizophrenia society who paid me to give wellness workshops, facilitate support groups, give speeches, give educational presentations, and even work as a telephone peer support person. So now I had two main sources of income and a great source of sharing my thoughts and feelings in a way that could help others. Like I have said a few times before, not necessarily with respect to mental health recovery, you simply establish yourself, force yourself through the difficult times of doing stuff like this alone, and soon you will make friends, feel better about what you are doing. Of course you don’t need to join the schizophrenia society, I couldn’t even guarantee there was one in many of the places this blog reaches, but I think there is a pattern. First of all you may need to go into a hospital or see a psychiatrist. More often than not, you will be prescribed medication. Then you go through the process of finding the optimal medication and go through the process of getting used to it. Then next step when you feel halfway better is to try and get into a life skills course and build your communication skills. Then you are really on your own. But I don’t suggest taking advantage of not having many activities and just sleeping in or staying up every day to watch Star Trek. What I suggest is to either find part-time work, or look at part-time studies that will help you later on when you are looking for work. I happened by photography, which got me a job paying $50 an hour. I could still be doing that, but I wanted to focus now on my writing and I am also teaching. I still take photos when I can, and it even brings in a little money. But I am now teaching two classes a week part-time, and other things present themselves, like the pay I am going to get to be a guest lecturer at a University. All I really have to do is tell the story of my recovery and then answer questions for some first-year students. The idea though that I would progress to the point I am at now considering that for 6 months I was literally a raving mentally ill person in need of being locked up is amazing, and the greatest part of it all? The more I give back, the more I advise those who come after me, the easier it becomes to do the things needed to maintain my mental health. Each time I go to the hospital and see people who have attempted suicide because they stopped their anti-depressants I become more of an advocate for regular, supervised medications. And so much more. Anyhow, anyone who would like to help support my efforts to reduce stigma and increase awareness of mental illness, please purchase my book “Through the Withering Storm” on amazon. Read the reviews, there are some glowing ones. Find the book at this link: http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB and I hope you have a wonderful day and a wonderful read!

Leif Gregersen

Sacrificing For Those We Love: It’s About Our Mental Illness and Their Caring

Some of you may have heard me talk before about my dad. When I had the worst hospital admission of my life, he was there for me. He would drive all the way to my apartment, across town, and then we would drive to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long and soothing walk. He did this with me for a very long time until I was fit enough and well enough to go places on my own. Just that little bit of company and that little bit of exercise was enough to put me through a powerful transformation, recovering almost 100% from my hospital stay.

Then, yesterday, it was time to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I can’t help but notice he seems a little shorter, a little more helpless, but no less funny and kind and lovable. He was turning 83.

I think my dad somehow understands that he isn’t going to be around forever. I don’t think he ever imagined me, the youngest, would be taking him out for supper near my 50th birthday, but he is starting to understand. It is getting harder for him to concentrate, he forgets things more and more. There will be a time some day soon we will have to look for a place for him to live that has more care.

Something that is very important to remember is something that a young woman who was studying social work told me a long time ago: “The worst thing you can do is use your illness as an excuse.” I think, for me anyway, that being the best writer, best son, best friend, best brother, and all of those things are extremely important. Sadly though, there was a time in my life that I didn’t live up to what was expected of me on these counts, and I lost friends and girlfriends, and I almost made my family sick of me.

I think it can be a good idea to find someone, be they an actual family member, or even a fictional character on TV that you admire and use them as a foundation for how to treat your loved ones. Now, all that is good, but there are some things a person can do that will almost guarantee they will have good friends and that they will be close with family members.

  1. Be able to listen just as much as you talk, and even try and talk less to your friend or loved one than they speak to you. Listening skills have to be cultivated, and it is so important to give each person the ear they deserve.
  2. If you can’t work full-time, try and work casual or part-time. Be careful with your money but not cheap. This seems like an irrelevant point, but the truth is that if you never have any money of your own and you end up making friends or family members pay for you, they will want to have less and less to do with you. A little money is also good for things you may want like a second hand mountain bike or other wish items
  3. Having a job (or even a volunteer job) pays back in a few ways, it will make you a more interesting person. Who wants to hear the run-down of the latest TV shows each time you meet up with them? Volunteering is also a great way of building skills for a future job that may be just what you dreamed of.
  4. Keep drinking or drug use to an absolute minimum, and if you smoke or vape, do your best to stop. Doing these things will increase your worth in the eyes of your friends and loved ones (unless you currently hang with the ‘wrong’ crowd, which I suggest you work on changing). If you moderate and quit these things, so many barriers come down for you, and you will definitely have more pocket money. With the price and danger of smoking tobacco or vaping, quitting is almost a no-brainer, but I want to emphasize you can’t get feeling better or be in a better financial situation than you will be in if you stop smoking.
  5. If you are able to stop smoking or vaping, and you are not physically disabled, getting involved with sports can be a great thing to do. I personally have osteo-arthritis in my knees and I have a few health issues from torn cartilage in my feet to a thick head, and I am still able to walk long distances and to go swimming. Doing these things not only opens a new world to me in things to do, it has allowed me to meet and get close to some pretty wonderful people.

Well, that is about it for today, I hope you got something from all that writing. I think I could close in saying one of my favourite modern phrases:

Use things and love people. It never works out the other way around.

 

Drugs Other Than Prescribed Medications For Those With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #depression #mania #psychosis #psychiatry #drugs #alcohol #recovery

 

I can recall a wise friend of mine once telling me about his experience in AA meetings. He said not only that he had been diagnosed with it, but also that in the 12-step program he was in, people with bipolar disorder were greatly over-represented.

Something that I often have thought about is, how do people go from regular people to alcoholics and then addicts? I watched a very insightful TV miniseries that came out of Britain called Traffic which was mostly about Heroin. I found it interesting in many ways. One of the things that was enlightening was not only that there is a huge problem with heroin addiction destroying lives in Britain, but that the opium poppy, which is what heroin is derived from, is grown openly as just another cash crop. I don’t know all the places that it is cultivated, but in another documentary I saw about the present war in Afghanistan, American and other countries’ soldiers are instructed not to harm the opium crops or obstruct any of the farmers from cultivating them. It seems so tragic that this problem could be cut off at the source but it is a very complicated problem. First of all, the Afghan farmers who grow the opium poppy don’t get very rich of their crops, they barely earn enough to feed their families and it would cause such extreme hardship if the crops were destroyed and forbidden throughout the whole country that there would be starvation and death to follow.

Another thing that must be considered is that if the production of opium poppy crops went underground, there would be a great deal more profiteering and violence surrounding it. Opium has existed for thousands of years in Asia and there are large numbers of people all over the world in serious dependance of the drug.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to instruct a poetry class in a homeless drop-in centre that had a safe injection site. The purpose of me teaching this subject was to help people to be able to express themselves about how they felt about the opiod crisis. This referred more to things like fentanyl and oxycontin, though heroin and other needle drugs are used in the community. What I learned from this experience is that a great deal of the people who end up homeless and addicted start out just like any normal person. They go through school, get work experience, find a job, and then one day they have the unfortunate experience of painful illness or injury. They may get benefits for disability, but a lot of them have to rely on savings and selling possessions like vehicles and houses just to put food on the table. These people get prescribed pain killers and soon find they can’t do without them. Then something happens (in a lot of cases) where the person realizes that street drugs work better and are much cheaper than designer painkillers. Then we open Pandora’s box and before you know it, the person is addicted and homeless. Then of course there is another side of it, a childhood trauma, often sexual abuse makes a person so incredibly ‘messed up’ for want of a better term that they turn to drugs to blank out the pain and the nightmares and bad memories.

I think at this point it might be useful to state that there are some drugs that end up as gateway drugs, but attitudes and concepts of this are changing. Now, even experts are saying that the real gateway drug is trauma. But I have known some people who were in recovery who told me about how they got started. In my own case, I actually used THC before I even drank alcohol in amounts sufficient to inebriate myself. I only did it a handful of times but things happened when I did this. I found in doing it I made the only strong connection with my older brother of my early teen years. Soon after I started smoking cigarettes and then I began to drink, just a little at first, but soon I was getting drunk every weekend, and soon after that I was drinking at least something every day. I almost couldn’t understand why I started to like alcohol so much because my dad was a drinker and I blamed a lot of my problems on his aggressive behaviour after his daily intake of at least 12 beer. I remember being so worried he would get an impaired driving conviction or that one time when he was driving drunk with the whole family in our van he would go off the road at high speed and kill us all. Looking. back, that could have been where a lot of my life-long difficulty with anxiety came from. I always felt (at school with bullies) that my health, safety, even my life was in danger. That anxiety stunted my social growth. I never had a girlfriend in school, never went to a single school dance. I did know a couple of young women and had a date or two but I couldn’t even look females in the eye, I was so ashamed that they would find out how messed up I was. Then came a cadet dance. Just about every time I went to a cadet dance I just sat in the corner, but this time, a friend brought a large quantity of beer. I got really drunk and came very close to having sex with two young women in the same night. It was a deadly connection I made in thinking that alcohol equalled calming of the nerves, which equalled sex. It took me a long time to quit.

Around the age of 20, I started to take psychiatric medications on a regular basis and I tried to quit drinking. Then I nearly killed myself one weekend drinking extremely strong rum on a camping trip. I blacked out everything after my first drink. I took my medication after drinking and vomited all over the place and alienated friends completely that I had known for years. Luckily though over the years I was able to keep control of the drinking and I used THC very few times. What scared me though was going through my early to middle adult years and finding out that friends had done such drugs as crack, morphine, cocaine and just about anything a person could name. I wanted to cut ties with them but as a person with a mental illness I had few friends so it was difficult.

Along the way I developed some theories of addiction that I think are relevant to share. Sometimes, people use drugs to self-medicate away some of their mental health issues. I recall a party I went to where I downed a bunch of beers quickly and then was bouncing off the walls in a state of mania. I thought, as I thought that alcohol meant more female attention, that alcohol also meant a release from my depression. For as long as I connected good times with booze I was unable to stay quit for very long. Fortunately maturity really helped me and at this point it has been years since I drank or used drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Some people who are really successful, like high-priced lawyers or rock stars end up doing a lot of drugs and I think I understand why. They work extremely hard, rise up to the top, have everything they ever imagined, but deep down they are just ordinary people who need things like love and satisfaction in life just like anyone. Their lives seem empty or they regret that things will never get better and in this time they turn to drugs. It’s astounding what some rock stars have done, like Stephen Tyler of Arrowsmith admitting that he had consumed literally six million dollars of cocaine in his life.

Mental illness can lead to addiction. Substance abuse, and this can lead to homelessness, and alienation and eventually even your life isn’t worth that much. What I feel has to happen is that people need to learn more about themselves, possibly through therapy, group therapy or 12-step meetings. What needs to happen is that a person has to rebuild a world view. They need to come to understand the importance of living the clean life, the good life, the advantages of being stable and trustworthy and the steps they need to take to become that way. It starts with abstinence, but the work isn’t done with just that. My wise friend from the 12-step program, now departed, once said that “We don’t have a cure for addiction, we just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” With that I will leave you dear readers. Remember you can write me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com and that my books are available on amazon.

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!

 

Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen