Strong Emotions and Mental Illness

I have always been one that’s had problems with hiding my emotions and feelings.  Even before I had mental illness problems I’ve always felt deeply, loved deeply, had strong opinions about things I cared about, etc.  This has often gotten me in trouble at school, in social situations, at jobs, and especially among family and friends.  I have no idea how many friends I have lost, how many jobs I’ve been fired from, how many teachers and potential allies I’ve alienated, and how many arguments I had with family members over the years.  This was all because I felt deeply, wasn’t afraid to go against popular opinions when I felt they made no sense, and was often too stubborn to back down from someone I felt was in the wrong.  Sadly, as a result of these strong feelings, I never really developed strong social skills, learned how the games of socializing and workplace politics were played, or learned until I was well into my early 30s that people would rather a person be polite and wrong than be less than tactful and in the right.  It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I learned that when dealing with groups of neurotypical individuals, it was better to have a good image and weak emotions than it was to have strong character, strong emotions, but a less than good image.  The smartest and most right man in the room is  ignored in favor of the one who acts and looks the best without upsetting people.  It is simply the way most humans are.

As a result of developing a mental illness, my emotions, feelings, and opinions are actually stronger than they were in my youth.  I have learned, despite these stronger emotions, to keep my mouth shut the vast majority of time when in groups larger than two or three people.  This is especially true when dealing with people I don’t know well.  I never could figure out why, but most neurotypical people greatly fear strong shows of emotions.  So I often find myself bottling up my emotions (whether its anger, anxiety, sadness, depression, or even happiness) for fear of upsetting others.  Some would argue that I am a stoic, unfeeling person just by watching my interactions with others.  This is far from the truth.  I feel very deeply, so deeply I try to not show emotion at all when around those I don’t know.  I imagine much of this comes from being raised in a family and rural farming community were strong displays of any emotions were strongly discouraged.

It is very tough for me to bottle up my emotions, especially with a mental illness.  It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized just how threatened and fearful of strong emotions most people (at least here in USA) really were.  I never considered myself a threat or intimidating to anyone.  I was actually a long running joke growing up because I couldn’t physically defend myself from bullies (I never won a fight in my life despite being the biggest kid in my school) or knew when to shut up on issues when I knew I was right and everyone else was wrong.  In my social interactions I am always picking my words and phrases very carefully so not to upset others.  This leads to even more social and work problems because most people assume I’m either not genuine or am a complete liar.  I’m not being a fraud, I’m just trying not to show emotion one way or another.  I often feel like it would be better to be an emotionless robot as opposed to having as strong of emotions I do.

I would love to hear from others who have problems with strong emotions, socializing, and mental illness.  Opinions and stories from readers are always welcomed.

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The three essential skills you’ll need to survive the future of work

This a a blog post from qz.com. I take no credit for any of this. While a changing work environment can be daunting, some of these changes (such as less defined hours, the possibility of internet based business, being paid for creativity more than physical labor, etc) are potentially beneficial for those with mental health concerns who would have problems at a ‘traditional’ job. Perhaps there is reason to hope that those with mental illness but still creative and tech savvy can hold gainful employment.

Link to a Health and Wellness Blog of a Childhood Friend of Mine

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While I normally post on mental illness and mental health issues, I also believe that there is a connection between physical health and mental health.  I am convinced they affect each other.  With this in mind, I wish to share a link to a blog run by Dr. Amy Bates of Kansas City.  She is a childhood friend of mine.  I take no credit for what she has wrote.  But we do agree that what we eat is very important.  Psychical and mental health very often influence each other.  http://www.theholisticpic.com/blog/

Not Holding ‘Traditional’ Employment, Losing Weight, and Changes

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It’s been at least two and half years since I last held a traditional job of any kind.  No doubt some would argue that since I have a good amount of intelligence, I have no reason not to be doing some kind of job.  I’m sure that some look upon me with disdain because I’m on Disability Insurance for a condition that they don’t understand, let alone acknowledge it’s existence.  At this point in my life and development I don’t hold this against anyone.  I’ve come to accept, without any degree of resentment, that some aren’t going to grasp why I decided to opt out of traditional employment.

I absolutely intend to go back into the workforce at some point in the future.  But, at this point and time in my life, I believe it far more important for myself to lose weight and get back into good health before I rejoin the workforce. As of this writing, I have lost at least 60 pounds since the middle of March 2014.  I still have a long way to go before I hit my final health and weight goal.  With my body build being what it is (short legs, short arms, large body, very thick bones, and more muscled than average) I doubt I’ll be able to finish a marathon even when I make final goal.  But I can certainly be healthy even with the natural framework I have.  I think that anyone can if they make the efforts to be more conscious about what they eat, what they do for exercise, and know themselves well enough to plan around their strengths and weaknesses.

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Sadly, when I worked I wasn’t able to lose weight.  This was even with doing jobs like janitorial and factory work where I had to keep moving at all times.  Whatever I burned off from these jobs I consumed back from the course of not tracking what I ate.  I wasn’t conscious about what I ate.  Since I usually came hold tired and worn out, as a result of carrying so much weight and working physical jobs, I made no efforts to exercise when I wasn’t at my place of employment.  And thus a vicious cycle of unhealthiness, fatigue from work, and depression plus anxiety from being out of shape enough I couldn’t do what I wanted in my hours away from the job was going on during the years I held even part time employment.  Serious changes were needed to break this cycle.

After I left my last paying job, I set out to attempt to get healthier.  I read many books on dieting, exercise, nutrition, motivation, and mental health.  I also decided to take a very long and completely honest assessment of my strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies.  I liked much of what I was able to uncover (my intelligence, my ability for keeping accurate records, attention to details, ability to adapt quickly, ability to learn quickly, etc.).  I also didn’t like much of what I found about my drawbacks (tend to be discouraged in the day to day work, often not keeping attention on the larger picture, tendencies to distraction, tendencies to attempt too many projects at once, tendency to get discouraged when not able to see progress, etc.).  I decided rather than trying to improve my deficits, I would instead develop my natural strengths enough to negate my weaknesses.

I decided I wanted to lose weight in the summer of 2013.  I didn’t seriously start losing weight and getting healthier until April 2014.  That is when I started tracking everything I ate.  Just as vital, I tracked all exercises I did.  I wanted to not only know what was going in my body,  I was also interested in what I was doing too.  Over a period of a few weeks, I noticed my activity was increasing while my consumption was decreasing.  Stretch that over several months, my consumption is still decreasing and my activity is not only increasing, but is getting easier to do.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but on the day I decided without a doubt I was going to get to a set goal weight, in my case 225 pounds, on or before a set date in time, this date was March 17, 2019.  I picked March 17, 2019 only because it was exactly five years from the date when I decided I was ready to set out on the long journey to good health.

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By March 2014, I had done an inventory of my strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.  I also had a working knowledge of several different types of diet programs (such as Weight Watchers, South Beach, Paleo-Diets, Glycemic Index Diets, etc.).  I had stated, and written down, my intentions of losing weight and getting healthy by stating an exact weight I wanted to be at and gave myself a set time period to do this work.  I knew I enjoyed walking, whether it’s in a park or in the old downtown of my hometown.  So walking became a major element in my exercise program.  I also decided I would track what I ate and what exercises I did every day.  If this sounds like a lot of work, it is a lot of work.  It took almost fifteen years to get as unhealthy as I was.  I wasn’t going to get back to good health rushing into a program without doing some planning.  No one builds anything that lasts, it doesn’t matter if it’s a dog house or the new World Trade Center building in New York, without sitting down and making some plans.  Taking the time to evaluate what you have to work with and making plans accordingly is the key to any undertaking, not just getting into good health.

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Losing Weight While On Anti-Psych Meds 2

One of the most common side effects of taking antidepressants  and anti-psych medications is weight gain.  I myself was no exception to this.  But now that trend has been  reversed.  I’ve been working on becoming more active and tracking what I eat since the middle of March 2014.  As of early November 2014, I have lost over 55 pounds in this time.

I suppose I ought to go into some of the background of this.  In August 2013, it became obvious to me I could not keep going as I was.  So I hastily started out trying to lose weight.  But I didn’t actually keep track of what I ate, was inconsistent about exercise, and tried to follow a plan that I didn’t specifically tailor to my personal likes and tendencies.  That first attempt at losing weight failed.  I had to take some time, figure out why it didn’t work, and adjust accordingly.  That’s how I spent much of December 2013 and January 2014.

I also talked to my psych nurse about my intentions of losing weight.  He and I agreed to switch to two newer medications that didn’t have as much of a tendency to promote weight gain as my previous two medications.  It was tough to change medications that had worked well on the mental side of my health.  Yet, both my psych nurse and I thought that a wrecked physical health would only ruin my mental health eventually.  The change over was a rather slow process that took most of January 2014, all of February and March 2014.  It was, as time would show, a change over that was worth it.

Once the weather started to warm up in late March, I made it a point to walk outside for at least 10 minutes per day.  That doesn’t sound like much but it was a start to developing good habits.  From those beginnings I am now able to do 35 to 40 minutes of physical activity five days per week.  I make it a point to take at least one day per week off from exercise merely to allow my body to recover and break up the routine some.

I also track everything that I eat.  I do this through a free tracking profile I have on webmd.com.  All I had to have to sign up for this was a valid email address.  The profile I have tracks calories eaten as well as calories burned through exercises.  Another site I used to get some good ideas was trimdownclub.com.  It does cost some money through a one time fee.  I have looked around online and there are numerous apps that track calories used, calories eaten, etc., and many of these are free apps.  I just track everything through my laptop computer as I don’t own a smartphone.

Once I decided I wanted to lose weight, learned my tendencies and how to work accordingly, changed my anti-psych meds to some with less side effects, began building my psychical stamina slowly, tracking everything I eat as well as my exercise, stopped making excuses as to why I couldn’t get healthier, and even quit punishing myself for those inevitable days where I backslide, it became just a matter of running my tailor made program and doing the work.  I also do not weigh myself daily.  I usually only weigh every four weeks.  I do this so as to not get discouraged if the numbers aren’t changing on a day to day basis.  I also do not go only by what the numbers on the scale are, I also go off how I personally feel.

I also do not follow any one program completely.  I’ve taken advice from many sources, such as Weight Watchers, Trim Down Club, Glycemic Index diets, Paleo diets, as well as my personal preferences.  It took several months of research and looking at my own tendencies before I started losing weight to figure out something I thought would work for my personal circumstances.  I certainly couldn’t afford some diets or much organic foods as I’m living off Social Security Disability Insurance at the moment.  But the facts are I am losing weight while on anti-psych medications and working in the constraints of a very limited budget.  It can be done but it does take facing the truth about yourself and knowing your tendencies.  Something like this, for the results to last, has to be a complete lifestyle change.