Finding the Motivation and Places to Exercise in Winter

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In the middle of winter it can be difficult to find the motivation and places to exercise.  There are ways around this.  One of the things I do to exercise in winter is to walk in places like malls and large stores.  Since I tend to be a night person I sometimes go to the all night Wal-Mart or supermarket and just walk the isles for twenty to thirty minutes at a time.  I like to walk in these places, often between 9 pm and 7 am, because they are well lighted and I can often find if things are going on sale.  It is also easier to find things during slower hours since I’m not going against crowds.  It can also be fun to chat with the night clerks and cashiers as overnight shifts tend to be less formal.  Get to exercise, find bargains, and get good conversation in cases like these.  While it wouldn’t work for those with family and work responsibilities to be doing exercises at night, it works well for me.  I’m merely throwing a few ideas out.

I also sometimes dance in my apartment.  I use an iPod and headphones as to not disturb my neighbors.  A good half hour of dance can burn calories, often better than just walking. If you are concerned about being seen through your windows, you can always close the drapes.  Yet, even if you are seen dancing in your own home, dance like no one is watching because no one really cares.  Other people are quite busy with their own concerns as to pay much attention to what may cause paranoia and embarrassment to us who have mental health problems.

Another thing I do is just simple arm weights.  The weight shouldn’t be so heavy that you have to strain at lifting it.  I’m quite strong and the most weight I do for my arms on basic curls is 10 pounds.  I mainly go for numbers of reps as opposed to weight.  I also don’t do it every day.  I do it only twice to three times per week.  I also stretch before and after each session.  Most sessions last only five to ten minutes.  I do mine when I’m watching tv, often during commercials.  If you do decide to go this route, start small and throughly stretch before and after the sessions.  I have found stretching after a lifting session lessens muscle pain the next day. I have also heard of football coaches and trainers using this method of stretching to lower muscle pains and injuries in their players and students. Never work the same muscles two days in a row.  Right now I’m just doing arm muscles as I don’t have any real fancy equipment or a gym membership.

You actually don’t really need metal weights. I had a grandfather who, rather than buying arm weights, used empty milk jugs filled with sand and/or cat litter.  Did this for years until he was at least eighty.  Push ups and stomach crunches can be done anywhere with some open floor space.  It simply doesn’t take a lot of cool equipment if you have the desire to get into better health and are on a tight budget.  It does take some creative thinking and a good fitting pair of walking shoes.

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Winter Inactivity and Longing for Spring

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Winters are usually a time stability but boredom for me.  This is the third winter when I wasn’t working some kind of paid employment.  So I’ve gotten used to the idea that winter is a time of forced inactivity.

I usually do most of my physical activity, socializing, and at my happiness in spring and early summer.  Most activities I enjoy like walking, fishing, working outdoors, going to barbecues, watching baseball games, going to the park are almost impossible in winter in the part of the country I live in.  January and February are times I’m usually mentally stable but because of the weather of winter, it is also when I’m least active.  I tend to be one of these people that can’t sit still and force myself to be inactive.  If I’m not out walking, I have to read a book, play some strategy computer game, or watch something that’ll make me sharper on youtube.  I just hate having to force myself into physical and mental inactivity.  Monks that teach meditation would hate students like me 🙂

One blessing of my mental illness, if you can call it that, is the seasonal aspect of mine is late summer instead of winter.  Even while the weather is lousy and travel is questionable, I can usually feel well even if I have to be inside for long periods.  Many mentally ill people I know have a seasonal aspect and it’s often in the winters.

Luckily, as I am a writer/blogger, I can fulfill my mental activity needs even if I can’t get out and walk or go fishing.  A significant chunk of what I have written has been in the winter months.  That helps quite a bit filling the voids while I’m waiting for spring.  As a baseball fan I am glad to see that spring training will be starting in less than two weeks.  I prefer the laid back nature of baseball to a lot of other games and I like how if a team loses, it can’t be dwelt on since they have to play again tomorrow.

I’m already over half way through winter.  Only six more weeks of bitter cold and probably eight weeks until the last snows.  We’re getting there as we always do.

Writing a Book About My Experiences with Mental Illness

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I first wrote about my experiences with mental illness in late 2006 when I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper about my experiences as a way to promote mental illness awareness when one of our local state legislators was putting on a forum about such topics.  To my pleasant surprise, the article/letter I wrote went over well.

From that experience I decided to write a series of short topical essays about what the aspects of living with mental illness were like.  I wrote about such topics as struggling through college, struggling in the workplace, filing for disability insurance, how to cope with loneliness, how to deal with losing friends, what to tell family members, employers, friends, and other topics.  Many good books have been written about mental illness by doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists, yet not many from the mentally ill person’s point of view.  That is where I came in.

A couple of years ago, I put all of these essays into book form in a book available through lulu.com titled The Mental Illness Essays.  The essays written in this book led me to write my blog.  I have put a link to the site where my book is available in this post.  You can also get there by clicking on the picture of the book at the top of this post.  Check it out and leave some feedback.

Finding A New Therapist and Trust Issues

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Today I’m going to write about one of the aspects of mental illness that happens to most of us with mental illness diagnosis at least once in the course of our lives.  This is the subject of changing therapists.  For me, it was a bit daunting to change from a therapist that had developed a trusted relationship with me.  Trust is a big, big issue for mental health patients.  I don’t trust anyone right away under any circumstances.  My default mode has been, traditionally, not to trust someone I just met until I can figure them out well enough to tell if they are trustworthy.  The trust of a mentally ill person does not come as fast or easy as it would with a chronically normal person.  But that trust, once broken for any reason, will never be regained.  It rarely matters how small or insignificant such breeches may seem to a normal. Once a mentally ill person has any reason to doubt your sincerity, that friendship/relationship/etc. is as good as dead.

I write all of this to simply state that we who have mental health problems have problems with trusting people right away.  This is perhaps due to some of us being more sensitive to verbal cues from others.  Some, like me, may not easily trust because we have been betrayed too many times as young people because we had difficulty reading who can and cannot be trusted.  Others, also like myself, may have never learned, or were born knowing, the proper rules of social etiquette.  Either you normals were born knowing social cues or that subject was covered during one of the dozen or so days of school I missed between kindergarten and 12th grade.  I really don’t know how to socialize properly.  I really don’t know what is the appropriate time and proof needed before I can properly show trust.  Many of us mentally ill simply do not know these unspoken rules of social etiquette.

After two sessions with this new therapist, I still don’t know if the trust can be made.  Yes, he seems to be competent.  He seems to care about me, at least in a professional sense.  But, trust is a big deal.  Not only is it a problem to know if I can trust someone, it is also a problem for me to know I have someone’s support, appreciation, friendship, etc. Even after two hours with this new therapist, I still don’t know if this is someone I can trust.

I have had too many instances when I thought I had someone’s trust (again with people I should have never opened up to at all, like coworkers and bosses), that I found out that my trust was violated.  I have had too many instances when a coworker, boss, former friend, etc. told me we were on good terms at first, then go silent for a long time.  Then, I’d get that call into private conference where I’d be ambushed with a laundry list of things I was doing wrong and people I was irritating.  It is my experience that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, in any kind of authority wants to see me unless I am already in serious trouble.  Many mentally ill people are like this as well.  I have been told I have problems with authority and no respect for rules.  My problem is I don’t believe in superficially trusting someone who could stab me in the back at any moment for crimes I had no idea I was committing.  I also cannot understand why rules that make no sense or are obsolete should be followed.  I have never been able to hold that level of cognitive dissonance between my actions and my thoughts.  Most mentally ill people are like me in this regard.

I have trust issues.  I don’t trust people I just meet.  It’s not because I am an arrogant and aloof jerk.  It is simply because I cannot read the social and nonverbal cues that say whether or not I can trust an individual.