travel

Travel (Pandemic Allowing) When You Have A Psychiatric Disability and A Tiny Income

Travel is one of life’s great experiences. The hardest thing for me since the Pandemic began has been not to be able to travel. For so many who have mental illnesses, travel can be nearly impossible. I want to show you here how you can still do it.

The first thing I think you most need to be able to do is save. There is a short but information-packed book I have read many times on the subject of saving, investing and earning called “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I can’t guarantee it will make you rich overnight, but if you read it and follow the simple advice in it, you are guaranteed to be better off than if you don’t.

So, first you need to determine where you want to visit. Places that are overseas come with expensive airline tickets. Sometimes you may need to set aside money for your ticket as much as a year in advance. This is something I recommend and it has worked well for me travelling to Hawaii twice and to London, England once. I bought my ticket to London well in advance, keeping an eye on prices and seasons. I just wanted to visit the place, it didn’t matter what was going on so I managed a ticket for less than $1,000.00. By luck my trip turned out to be when England was celebrating the Queen’s 92nd birthday and there were a lot of events going on, a lot of flag waving and flowers being laid all over.

In the time between buying my ticket and leaving on the trip, something I did was watch as many Youtube videos as I could about London. I learned how to read their Underground (subway) map and picked out things I wanted to do, good places to eat and where to visit. I was even able to order my bus pass and a detailed paper map online. One of the other things that was key to me going on this trip was that I had a part-time job. I worked as a security guard for just a few hours a week, which wasn’t much, but it was a very easy job and the little extra money for savings made the difference for me.

When I got to London, instead of staying in a hotel, which could easily have cost $200 a night, I stayed in a Hostel, in a dorm room for I think around $60 a night after the exchange, which gave a free breakfast and had free wifi. Free wifi is key because with it, you can make free calls home. Not only that, but I was able to cook most of my meals in the Hostel and store food there rather than having to spend a fortune on restaurants.

I knew of a lot of the places I wanted to see, but after getting there, there were so many more things I want to get to next time. So many of the amazing sights and experiences in London were free. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, winding down in Trafalgar Square. Even most of the major museums and galleries were free to visit.

One of the key things I did was to restrict my activities to one per day. I also set a rule for myself that I wouldn’t spend more each day than I would at home. This meant returning home with a little extra money and the ability to not worry about working for a couple of days as travelling overseas can be exhausting.

I do want to caution something about customs. They can be a little tricky, especially with people with mental illnesses. During my trip home I was selected for secondary screening and the customs officer actually went through my medications one by one and also googled me, I guess to see if I was lying about my job or anything like that. If this happens to you, stay calm, explain your illness even if you feel it may look bad and above all be totally honest. You can’t get into trouble for having a mental illness, but you can get into trouble for lying and a lot of trouble if you are taking home contraband or more than your legal limit of products such as booze and cigarettes.

Lastly, if you are going to the US, remember that although it is legal in Canada, cannabis is illegal in the United States. Many states have legalized it but the US Federal Government hasn’t, and that is who pays the border guards down there. Don’t even bring a trace of marijuana or other drugs with you, they can turn you back, arrest you or fine you and generally ruin a hard-earned vacation.

The Time to Remember Those Who Sacrificed For Us

                             As we near the anniversary of the end of the First World War, I thought showing a picture of a historical novel I wrote and writing a poem about war would be appropriate. Scroll past today’s poem for today’s Mental Health Blog.

 

One Day in November, Time to Remember

By: Leif Gregersen

 

 

A soldier fallen, that is all

He made his choice when he answered the call

 

Back home his girl awaits his letter

His Sergeant said just forget her

 

In his parent’s yard a yellow ribbon

Just come home, all is forgiven

 

His father drinks, stares sleepless at the clock

He has been told his boy is in a pine box

 

His death was awful, a tragedy

Did he truly die to keep us free?

 

Pay a mortgage, slave for years

Lose a child, let loose your tears

 

I feel in war there really is no glory

Let those left behind tell you their story

 

A tale of grief, a tale of loss

Losing a loved one is such a cost

 

Those who come home are not the same

When they marched off it seemed like a game

 

Stand and remember, never forget

A war is part pain and part regrets

 

November 6, 2017

Hello good readers! I have been having a great week, and I really have no idea why. All I can say is that for those of you who are out there who suffer from mental illnesses and see no light at the end of the tunnel, please hold on. Life can surprise you in so many ways. Not to brag, but just to show how things can go well for a person, I want to list a few things that have happened that I am extremely thankful for. One is that just as I needed shelves and had some help to put them up and to fill them with the boxed up books and stuff in my apartment, my neighbour across the hall was moving and gave me a pair of excellent storage shelves, and even a small freezer. I can also give heartfelt thanks to my two friends, who came to my place and worked very hard to make it into something much more liveable. I don’t know if I have posted about this before, but I have also recently signed a contract for a student to turn one of my short stories into a film. So man things. Why do I deserve them, why have things turned around so far since I was in the hospital and feeling very ill? I think a lot of it has to do with persistence, setting goals, and trying to work away at big projects just a little at a time over the course of months or even years.

One of the things where this applies is with my poetry. I try to write poems as often as I can and I safe them carefully in a file on my computer so that once I have enough of them I can publish them in a book, and for some reason people have really liked my poems. For anyone out there who is having mental health difficulties, I strongly encourage you to look for things that you can do that are artistic or helpful to others and just try and do a little each day. I was so fortunate after a very traumatizing hospital stay 16 years ago that I found a place where there was no stress and very little obligations outside housekeeping, a little bit of cooking, and taking medications (along with seeing my doctor). Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. But if you are on some kind of benefit, I really hope you can go out and volunteer a few hours a week, do as much as you comfortably can and you may work your way into a job and be able to save up a little money. What if you then could get a hand-held video camera and make video blogs for YouTube. I tried that for a while, and I learned a lot about people, about photography, and making videos. If you want to see some of my early attempts, about 40 videos of mine can be found on YouTube under my name.

Another thing I think had a lot to do with me getting to the point I am at now is keeping a journal of my thoughts and goals and anything I could think of. This let me express myself in a safe way, and is something that just about any Psychiatrist will recommend to their patients.

I would love it if a lot more people could write like I do, but some people aren’t interested. A lot of people love to read but have no interest in writing. Your passion could be anything. If you like swimming, think about taking a course towards a lifeguard certification. You may never become a lifeguard, but it will enrich your life in so many ways and I am sure make you a better swimmer. If you are an out of work accountant on disability, look up your local volunteer network and find a place that needs some basic accounting work done. This way you can not only hone your skills, but you won’t have a large gap in your resume when you feel up to looking for regular jobs in the field, and this applies to a lot of careers. And then I want to pass on a piece of advice that I heard recently from a video about minimalism, “Love people and use things. Don’t try it the other way around, it never works.” so much of my great life these days I owe to my family and friends. All of them mean the world to me. So good readers, please try and apply my advice towards making yourself feel better and stand up against stigma. And I wish you all the best of everything!

Six Under, Five Over. Welcome to Hell

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Here is a slightly lopsided picture from my trip.  Some may recognize it, it is Buckingham Palace, home of Queen Elizabeth in London, England.

(please look past poem for today’s blog entry)

Six Under

I thought if I ate enough greens
Took vitamin C every day
And not just the chewable tasty ones
It’s not easy you know
Swallowing all those healthy pills
Odorless garlic and B complex
I had honestly thought if I spent a fortune
On all the healthiest of things
Plus went for a walk each morning
Did a little yoga when I could
And let’s not forget recycle everything

That I could avoid it

When I say it I mean death

Grim cold death has choked me
Taken my breath away
I had tried to be a nice guy
I stopped my car for pedestrians
Wore sweaters
Talked to old people
Asked unattractive girls to dance
I thought that would be enough
That somehow it would pass me by
But here I am dead
Having never seen the north or south pole
Never having toured America
On a Harley Davidson
But in all honesty I’m happier now
I didn’t like bean sprouts and kale
Spinach made me a little sick
It’s so much better
Six under
Leif Gregersen
June 26, 2016

     Good day, dear readers!  I see I have lost two followers, let’s see if I can gain them back with some effort and good blogging.  Things have been going well for me and I have been going through some intense ordeals.  The first big ordeal was travelling all by myself to London, England as you may have gathered from the photo above.  It was the most amazing trip of my life, though I did get some anxiety over different things such as rough weather when I was flying and the extremely long time it took to get to London.

At first, I thought London seemed a bit old and dirty, but when I got nearer the heart of the city I discovered it is still very much alive and vibrant.  It was interesting to see places that I have put into writing such as my two young adult novels (“In the Blink of an Eye” and “Those Who Dare To Dream”).  The first thing I had to do when I hit town was to ride a train for an hour to the place where I was staying.  I stayed in a Hostel called Clink 261 which was the best Hostel I have ever experienced.  They put on a free breakfast, they kept the place fastidiously clean, there was a TV room and lockers, it really was top notch, and it was located close to a lot of great stuff.

I had some difficulties being around so many people, in the Hostel and in the street.  London is a place teeming with human life of every imaginable variety.  People driving cars at breakneck speed on the wrong side of the road, people lining up just to buy a newspaper or cup of coffee, tons of people packed in subway or ‘underground’ trains flying all over the place also at top speed and of course a plane lands in London about every 3 minutes I was told.

What I liked best was Trafalgar Square, not only for the sentimentality of visiting it as a kid many years ago, but also because of its central location and numerous monuments, the most prominent being the one on a pedastal of Lord Horatio Nelson who died in the battle of Trafalgar where he defeated Napoleon’s Forces.  I also visited the Imperial War Museum and soaked up all that I could and then discovered that it was once a mental hospital and nearly got sick looking at films of men come back from the first world war.

Another thing that I really enjoyed (I think I will post a photo below for you) was the British Museum.  I didn’t see nearly what I wanted to, but I was impressed by a lot of things in the British Museum, especially King Edward III’s personal library.  (here’s  a photo below:)

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The library was incredibly ornate, very well lit by natural light, packed with artifacts, statues and stacked on both walls floor to ceiling with books, most of them at least 300 years old.  The place was bigger than a lot of shopping malls I have been to and was all the property of just one man, at a time when the Royal Navy had gone 180 some years without giving its sailors a pay raise and children were working at the age of 10 in slave-like conditions to feed the Empire and its war machine.  I am not against Britain when I say this, it was just the feeling that I had.  In a way I think it was almost a good thing for situations like that to happen because the result of it now many years later is that the people have taken over things like Edward III’s library and use it to further the knowledge of mankind.  If one man didn’t amass all of these books, who knows, maybe science would not be as far along as it is.  I couldn’t help but fantasize a bit while I wandered through this great hall as to what my place would have been in the days that Edward III was still alive.  I suppose I would be a farmer in Denmark, and not likely a very wealthy one.  Enough speculation for one day, I am sure I am boring my good readers.  Please pass the word about this blog, I think that with a present state of insomnia I will be making a lot more entries in the next little while.  Please comment if you like my poem above.

Growing Up and Growing Old What the F@#k Can One Guy Do?

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    A Bit of a Crooked Shot of Edmonton’s River Valley.  This Was Taken a Week or Two Ago and the Valley is Already Beginning to Turn a Beautiful Shade of Green

 

Today’s Poem:

 

April Poem

For some reason, it seems that poems escape me
When I’m no longer in pain

When I don’t feel the wrenching grip of loneliness
I can’t seem to write from my heart

This day was wonderful
A taste of heaven
Cool, sun-shiny Spring day

I met with a friend so close
That I’m not afraid to tell him I love him
And we sat with new friends
And laughed and talked
While the blue sky enveloped our hearts

Why do I get these pleasures?
How is it I can justify to my conscience
This incredible life?

So many of my years before this were painful
So many were lonely, I lived
In desperation
For a little more food
Some better medicine
For all that ailed me

Now I seem to have arrived, achieved
My sweet holy God in heaven I don’t deserve all this

Make me learn poverty
That I can remember to give
Make me learn loneliness
That I can remember to love
Let me know hunger and pain
So I have compassion

Take all of this from me

Oh God, my God I have done so many things wrong
Made so many mistakes
I’m told all of us are sinners
I must be the worst

A good friend once told me
We all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts
But after today
Sipping cold root beer
With warm friends
On a sunny day
I feel somehow as though
A perfect shape has filled my hole
And I want all the world to know

Leif Gregersen
April 17, 2016

Hello, and welcome to a beautiful Spring dear readers!  I took a very long walk today to meet up with a friend and got a lot of incredible surprises.  First of all, my generous friend, who is an internationally well-known author and film producer sat me down and explained that he is going to help me market my books, something I have been hard at work trying to do.  I have some opportunities to do this coming up soon, one of them is that I am going to be speaking at a conference in Toronto this August and at another conference in October in Halifax.  My friend is trying to set up something for me to go on tour in the Northwest Territories, giving writing workshops and also speaking about mental health.  Our Northern communities in Canada have been hit hard with a chain of suicides and I am strongly hoping that I can reach even just one person to seek help that may not have otherwise done so.

I also have a two-hour a week job teaching a writing class to adults with mental health difficulties and I am really enjoying it.  It takes a lot of work and it is a lot of effort to sit down with a group of adults who have psychiatric issues and keep them engaged for two whole hours, but I welcome the challenge as it just may lead to more things.  I like to teach people about the power of writing, the course is actually called “Writing For Wellness”.  We are doing poetry right now and there is a woman in the class who is actually showing some talent, I would really like to see her pursue her poetry further.  Once again, that is the one person, someone who you can make a difference with that makes things like this all worthwhile.

I don’t know if this is going to be a sleepless night, but I am having a hard time resting my head.  I am not following my own rules about sleep hygiene, I should not have let myself sleep in this morning or take a nap after supper.  When you go out and exercise for 3 or more hours, though, it just feels so incredibly wonderful to sneak in an hour of sleep.  I think what I am going to have to do is stay up late, perhaps write  a short story to pass the time, grab just a couple of hours in the early morning and drag myself through my day.

One thing I am really noticing though is that my stress levels seem to have gone way down since I stopped my labor job and started my present job of being an Editor.  I would just love to keep doing this job for as long as I can, it feels great to be a boss and help others to create their best work and put magazines together.  My only real worry is that the magazine may not last as long as I want to be employed by them.  Hopefully, at that point, things will get better though and perhaps I can find an even better job.

So I hope everyone out there is taking care of themselves.  The arrival of Spring is a good time for all of my readers to take enough care of themselves to get a doctor’s check-up done.  I had a bunch of blood tests done and found that my liver is working a little harder than it should and that I have been eating likely too much saturated fat.  All of us who are on medications and those who don’t want to be should be aiming for a goal of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day, not allowing themselves to become too sedentary, watching caffeine levels (2 cups a day in the morning, then try and switch to teas), and spending time with family and friends, hopefully going for walks in the park or volunteering or working.  The sunny seasons are a great time to resolve to spend less time in front of a screen and maybe more time living an active life.  But who the hell am I to say?  Actually, just a happy, healthy middle-aged man with good friends who has managed to control his bipolar through good living and medications!

Best,

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

My Ship Came In But I Was Stuck At The Airport

IMG_5877A few raindrops on the windshield but still some of the most beautiful country you can see

Well Dear Readers, I hope you all had a good chance to bond with your fathers or children yesterday.  I went for a very cool dinner cooked by my brother who is something of an incredible cook, having taken 3 years of formal training and many years of experience as a professional cook.  At the moment, I have the honorable task of helping edit a book that is not yet released by one of Canada’s top writers, Richard Van Camp.  The book is literally incredible, it weaves together a lot of the characters that Richard developed in his stories and the movies he made of them, including “The Lesser Blessed” and “Midnight Mohawk Runners”.  Then yesterday I was working at the Edmonton Coliseum, also known as Rexall Place, loading the trucks up from the Cirque De Soleil show.  Friday I was interviewed by an Edmonton Sun Reporter, Cam Tait and I am anxious to see how the article will come out.  And then last Wednesday I taught my second writing class to a grand total of one student, but still it was fun.  The student is a young man who grew up in this area and he is a very interesting young man and not a bad poet.  Like they say, those who can’t do… teach!

Another thing that happened this week was I completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which means I can now take a further course to be a facilitator.  I think this would be a great experience for me, I have been considering writing another book with regards to mental health, only this time one with more hard data and facts and all that rather than just stories of what happened to me.  I feel there is a great power that occurs when a persona can honestly share their own stories, in fact I think it is the main problem with mental health treatment today–too many people are too worried to admit they have  a mental health issue.  The only fact I really know is that 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 people will need to seek treatment for a mental illness at some point in their lives, but if all the people who were trying to tough it out or didn’t trust Psychiatrists or were too worried to reach out for help were counted in, it could be a lot more, who knows?

Anyhow, that is the long and short of it.  In the morning I am going for a business lunch to discuss me taking on more responsibilities in the fall session of my writing class.  I don’t really know how long I want to stay up but I might have to stay up all night just to make it in.  I will most likely go for a swim in the morning to keep myself going, not an easy thing when I have worked as a truck loader the night before.  I guess the price of influence and self respect is a few nights of missed sleep here and there.  All I can really say about the last couple of years is that it has been such an amazing experience publishing a book, and then publishing many of them.  I am meeting so many people, doing so many things.  The money isn’t really there, I have sold a lot of copies of one of my books and I think if I am lucky I am close to breaking even, but writing is such a wonderful experience.  I like to quote a man named Bronowski, a scholar who was the host of “The Ascent of Man” a TV show my mom used to really enjoy, which was also a book of the same name by the same person, the quote went something like: “The magic of reading is that no matter where you are, no matter the time or place, you can open a book up and be instantly transported into the mind of the author.”  I thank you Dear readers, for reading my mind 🙂  Poem to follow below today’s second photo.

DSCF5316     This is a photo I took underwater snorkeling in Hawaii last fall

First Love

 

Please let me paint a picture here with words

A story unlike any you’ve ever heard

It all begins in a sunny late spring day

When all the little boys and girls came out to play

 

There was a little boy who stood out among the crowd

Somehow as just a lad he seemed to stand tall and proud

And a little curly blonde-haired girl caught his eye

He could have made her his friend but didn’t try

 

This cute little pair of children grew up very fast

Funny enough the girl had a crush on him as time passed

But as they went through school together it was all a game

A race to see who would first get fortune and fame

 

At first as a model and a scholar the girl did well

Though the strong young boy was going through a kind of hell

His life at home got worse as each day went by

It was all he could do to not curl up, give up and cry

 

One day when he had taken all he could

He thought of the one thing in life he saw as good

He reached out to the curly blonde haired girl for hope

He was at the end of a nasty, slippery rope

 

All at once our blond girl expressed her love and true respect

But he didn’t want to start out his life in her debt

He thanked her but then went off to make his own way

He never stopped hoping to see her again one day

 

Life had never seemed to him all that fair

It had been so awful he really thought no one cared

But still he set off to conquer life on his own

He left his friends and his community, he left his home

 

Our boy put out his thumb and headed for the coast

Overnight to all his friends he became a ghost

Vanished out of sight and out of mind

Wondering to himself why the blonde girl was so kind

 

And as some do in sunny summer days

The young man succeeded in numerous ways

But when he returned home all the love was gone

The little curly blonde haired girl had moved on

 

No words could ever win her back again

He had to face the fact that this was the very end

And so he went on living like a ghost

Drifting north to south and coast to coast

 

Then one day he met a young troubled soul

And he found that holding her made him feel whole

Soon a wedding came and not long after a child

They let the baby grow up just a little wild

 

In their humble home there was always love and fun

And before too long our boy saw past memories as done

It meant so much to just lay back and hold his child and wife

By losing his first love he was given the perfect life

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 22, 2015