Emergency Preparation and Mental Illness

It is my hope that the advice in this column never has to be used for more than a day or two of inconvenience like in case of a blizzard or a power outage. This post is going to be about being prepared for emergencies with a mental illness or disability. I probably should have posted this entry before the last blizzard hit the East Coast.  But with a blizzard going to hit my part of the US coming, I think this is still relevant.  Being prepared for possible emergencies can be overwhelming for some people. But as we have seen from previous emergencies, particularly natural disasters over the last several years, it is vital to be able to take care of yourself for a few days if necessary.  It is also important to be aware of your surroundings.  What follows is a short, though not definitive, list of things to have in case of emergencies if outside help can’t get to you for a few days.

A supply of non perishable food for several days as well as some bottled drinking water.  It isn’t necessary to go overboard and be buying things through the internet (which can usually be found locally and is usually overpriced).  But something as simple as beans and rice, canned foods like canned pasta and chili, or anything that just needs water.  Foods like beef jerky that don’t require refrigeration are also handy.  Essentially anything that doesn’t need refrigeration and requires little to no preparation are good.  As far as bottled water goes, be sure to store it no longer than one year because the water tends to pick up a plastic like flavor to it.

Flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, extra blankets are always good things to have.  So is cash on hand.  This is not money to be spent except for emergencies.  Also might come in handy in case there are economic problems and banks won’t allow more than a small amount to be withdrawn.  It has happened in countries like Greece.

A first aid kit.  This can be picked up at any pharmacy or general store.  Hopefully you will never need it.  But you’ll be glad if you have one and you get hurt or sick with no immediate access to medical treatment.  Have one for your car and one for your house.

Especially important for people who have to take regular prescriptions (like myself), have at least one week of emergency supplies of all your prescription meds.  This does not mean skipping doses until you have your back up.  This means simply asking your doctor for a few samples.  Be upfront with your doctor and they will be glad to help you out.  But be sure to rotate these meds probably once a year.  And be sure to update your emergency supply in case your meds get changed.  Be sure to have a list of your medications and doses in your purse or wallet in case you have to go to the hospital and are unresponsive.

This is just a small generic list of things to have in case of an emergency that could leave you house bound and on your own for a couple days.  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list.  I’m not a wilderness survival expert or hardcore prepper, but I do believe it’s a good idea to always have emergency supplies and plans as a backup in case of natural disasters, fires, or just any kind of emergency that comes up.

 

 

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Stability With A Mental Illness

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Had my last chiropractic session a couple days ago.  I’m now released from regular treatments.  And my back feels even better than before my car accident in October.  Had a chronic ache in my tail bone from an injury in high school I never got treated.  Thought it was something I would just have to live with.  But with the regular chiropractic treatments out of the way for good, I now have a little more stability in my life with mental illness.

It’s been a month since the end of the holidays.  Things have settled down into a stable routine for me.  I enjoy the winter months because this is usually when I get a lot of reading and writing done.  I’m also far more sensitive to heat than cold.  And I don’t have to feel like I need to be doing something or going somewhere in winter, especially if the weather isn’t good.  It’s just easier for me to stay in for a couple days in winter if I feel like it.

In this routine I’ve actually gotten quite a bit done.  Been blogging more than usual.  Been reading a lot again.  And I’ve felt quite stable mentally.  Haven’t felt any real mental stability for any true length of time since probably last June.  I’m glad to have the stability back.  Almost forgot how good stability and the mundane can feel.

 

 

 

 

Long, Drawn Out Winter Days and Mental Illness

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No we don’t usually get to see the Northern Lights in Nebraska, but this is a cool picture anyway. Where I live we are in the middle of winter.  Been a typical cold winter.  Haven’t had any major snow storms but have had several small snows.  Haven’t gone anywhere for the last few days because of the ice and cold.  It gets dark by 6pm and doesn’t get light out until around 8am this time of year.  So I have long, drawn out nights to just sit and be anxious.  To try to ward this off I usually walk in the hallways for about 15 to 20 minutes every night, usually around 10 or 11 pm.  If I go too early, I’ll be dodging too many people to get a good walk in.  It’s too bad my apartment complex doesn’t have a small exercise room or even a treadmill in the community room.  Stuff like this would run a high risk of being vandalized in here.  I’ve seen just about everything come up missing in this complex.  People have stolen even house plants and door mats.  I’d have tenants trying to pirate my wireless internet if it wasn’t a private, password protected network.

If I sound a bit irritable it’s only because I’ve been home bound for a few days.  I admit to drinking too much coffee on cold days to warm myself up.  Not only am I on a caffeine crash, I’m also a little bored by being inside.  In America we have a slang term called “cabin fever.”  This merely means that a person is getting irritable and anxious from being forced to be inside most of the time, usually during the winter.  I imagine it was an old pioneer and homesteader term.  While we have only a few inches of snow on the ground, the ice is still pretty bad.  I saw two tenants slip in the parking lot just today.

But I did get to spend a little time outdoors just last night.  We had a good snow last night with almost no wind (a rarity in Nebraska where we usually have wind almost all the time in winter).  Just sat outside and watched the snow for an hour.  May not sound like much but with a mental illness even the little things can bring a sense of peace and calm.

Not much going on during the winter months but short days, long nights, trying to squeeze in a few minutes of walking whenever I can, arm weights three nights a week, some youtube, and computer games.  It’s nights like this that make me look forward to the spring months of April, May, and June, my favorite times of the year.

 

Revisiting the ‘Good Ol’ Days’ (They weren’t all that good)

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For years, even before I became mentally ill, I’ve been listening to people complain about how bad the state of the world is and how everything was better in the ‘good ol’ days.’  I’ve done blog posts on it in the past with Why I Am Grateful of Tech And Science Advances, Technology Advances and U.S. Presidents, and Reflections On Being a Recovering Doom Junkie. I don’t believe the nonsense that the past was some golden age were everyone was respectful, no one was stupid, the world was at peace, and wealth gaps between rich and poor didn’t exist.  Folks, the past wasn’t that great for the common man on the street. It was even worse for the common woman in most cases.  In many past civilizations,as many as half the children born didn’t live to see adulthood. ‘Utopia’ was a work of 16th century fiction by Thomas More, not a real place in some to be recaptured past. It’s as if everyone thinks that the entire world was like Mayberry in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ until about the last forty, thirty, twenty years.  But seriously, is our collective amnesia so bad that we think that the times we grew up in were nothing but peaceful and prosperous?  Are we so forgetful that we think that it was only the current younger generation that invented promiscuous sex?  No town in America (or anywhere else) was ever like Mayberry.I have never seen African Americans on Andy Griffith.  Being a town in the southern U.S. in the late 1950s, surely there would have been some.  No towns, besides maybe a few small farming villages in Nebraska and Kansas, were ever that white bread.  The 1950s were an age of purity and good values?  Please.  Does the Korean War, duck and cover drills, The Great Chinese Famine, McCarthyism, the quiz show scandals, western movies and tv shows that were (by today’s standards) blatantly bigoted towards Native Americans, and the Beat Generation culture of excessive drugs and sex as written about by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc. ring a bell?  Times weren’t more moral and more peaceful in the old days, they were merely less televised and exposed.

As far as having more moral and competent leaders in the old days, think again.  People today think it was shameful that President Clinton was getting sex from one of his interns or President Bush exaggerating to get a war in Iraq, etc.  But politicians and rulers have always fornicated and lied to their subjects.  Thomas Jefferson probably had an affair with at least one of his slaves.  Charlemagne had at least four wives and was almost constantly at war during the 8th and 9th centuries.  Even the Bible said King Solomon of Israel had seven hundred wives and yet praised him for being a man of great wisdom.  And this was before Viagra and Barry White albums. Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, accepted a challenge to a duel and set the rules of the contest to the death so that he would have won had not his friends talked him out of it. Pope Urban II exaggerated the abuse Christians received at the hands of the Turks to garner support for the First Crusade.  William Randolph Hearst was spinning news stories and outright lying long before anyone even thought of inventing cable news or alternative media.  As far as businesses like Microsoft, Facebook, Monsanto, BP, Google (who made most of the research for my blogs possible), Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, the defense contractors, etc. being favorite whipping boys for anyone against the abuses that can be perpetrated by big companies, then heaven help you if you ever knew about Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, the East India Company, the Potosi Silver Mines, etc.  So not even was our business practices always ‘an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.’  These are but a few examples to show that, in many ways, things were actually worse and less civil in the past then they are today.

Be careful about wishing for life to be like it was in the past.  Because it often wasn’t that good at all, unless you were a lord, noble, sultan, robber baron, or chieftain.  Yet in many ways I live better today, have better access to health care, better access to information, better entertainment, better fitting clothing, and better sanitation than the richest men of one hundred years ago and better than most middle class people in the 1960s.  It’s getting late as I write this so I should think about going to bed.  Yep, tonight I’m sleeping on a spring mattress (something no king or sultan of Medieval times had) wearing comfortable sleep clothes made of manufactured fabrics and processes that didn’t exist two hundred years ago, and with the warmth of central heating (something not even the richest man in the world had in 1900).  Yes life is good.  And should you try to think that things can’t possibly get any better or that we are on ‘the eve of destruction’, well every generation has thought it was the last one or that these were for sure ‘the end times.’

 

 

Mid Winter Cleaning

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Since I’m feeling ambitious with more consistent sleep, I’ve decided to clean my apartment and get rid of some clutter.  I went somewhat minimalist a year ago, so there wasn’t as much clutter to get rid of this year.  After dusting what furniture I still have (I have decluttered enough I now need only one bookshelf, a tv stand, a couch, a chair, and an all purpose large table in my living room) I vacuumed the place entirely at least three times.  I have that lovely light beige carpet that shows dirt and dust real bad.  It’s a pain to keep clean.  Still have to work on my small kitchen.  I’m doing all of this cleaning now because our apartment complex is having a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspection next month.  In case HUD decides to check random rooms, the management here is inspecting all apartments in two weeks.  We had a preliminary inspection before Christmas.  All I really had was minor issues that could be remedied within a few hours of cleaning.  Just because I’m a bachelor doesn’t mean my place is as filthy as a Neanderthal cave.

With paranoid schizophrenia I am naturally a little concerned about letting people I don’t associate with regularly just look around my apartment.  With our preliminary inspection last month I didn’t know what our new manager would be looking for.  It usually takes one annual inspection before I know what a manager will and will not look for.  A previous manager didn’t like that I had “too many electrical cords” on my floor.  But they weren’t tripping hazards.  Another didn’t like that I had my couch against my living room window. Claimed it was a hazard in case the fire department had to come through my window. Another was a stickler about dust and carpet cleanliness.  I got hammered on the carpet because the carpet is probably thirty years old and has needed replaced as long as I’ve lived here.  Not even a Rug Doctor can save carpet that old.

It’s always been nit picking and moving the goal every time a new manager comes in.  I’ve always been annoyed by subjective standards that aren’t quantifiable.  That’s why while I liked doing one act plays and speech in high school, I didn’t care for the competitive end of it.  Seems to me the difference between bringing home first place and finishing dead last is the judges more than the actors or speakers.  One time my brother and his best friend did a humorous duet skit that was unbelievably funny. But they were doxxed by one judge at districts and denied a shot at the state tournament because one judge didn’t like that they made a passing reference to homosexuality.  But this was twenty years ago.  As far as speech and acting went, if my audience went home enlightened and entertained I felt I did my job. I never cared about any judge whose opinions and motives I can’t even guess.

I’m not worried at all about these inspections anymore.  The first couple years I lived here I was.  I was paranoid enough back then I thought I was on the edge of getting evicted at any time.  I didn’t know the rules to the game of living in low income housing and disability insurance I do now.  I have been around long enough to see that the only sure ways to get evicted in low income housing is to not pay your rent, break the law, or keep a house so awful it’s a health hazard.  So annual inspection one of those things that it’s just a minor inconvenience to be endured for a short time.  But that’s pretty much the sum of my last few days.

 

Sleep Effects On Mental Illness

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Since the end of the holidays things have slowed down in my life.  I have gotten quite a bit done.  I have also more stable than the last several months.  I attribute this greater stability to not just the end of outside stressors but also on how much sleep I get.

I confess to being a night owl.  Have been my entire life.  Even I need at least seven hours of straight sleep in order to function well.  I can get away with pulling two all nighters in a row and sleeping for maybe five hours in the morning hours every two to three weeks.  But it takes longer to recover than in years past.  A lack of sleep makes me irritable, short tempered, and unable to focus if it goes on for more than a few days.  So to cut this off I’ll reduce caffine, especially after lunch for a couple days.  This helps with falling asleep easier.   It allows me to sleep at times when the normals of the world do.  After a couple days of more consistent sleep I feel like I’m reset.  I can probably do one all nighter every five to seven days without much problem.  But I try to sneak a second one in I’m asking for trouble. Three in a row is asking for problems.  After my grandmother died and my subsequent car wreck, I was pulling two to three all nighters per week.  No wonder I had two breakdowns within three months.  I usually have only one per year, often in late August or early September.

In short, I need sleep.  It takes a toll on my mental stability if I don’t get consistent sleep for more than a few days.  Mental illness can be made more severe without good sleep.  I know mine can be worse when I’m not sleeping well.

 

Adapting to Winter Exercise

Here we are in the early weeks of winter.  In my town we already have had more snow by early January than we did all of last winter.  Of course last winter was the driest one I remember.  With the increased ice, cold, wind, and snow, walking and exercising outside can be hazardous.  I’ve already slipped and fell on ice already.  Found out that even in my thirties I don’t bounce back as fast as I did in my teens and early twenties.

As a result of the changes in weather I’ve moved my exercising indoors.  Since I live in a big apartment complex I can walk the hallways in the off hours.  I still do arm weights three times a week.  I still keep track of everything I eat.  I avoid sugar and white floured foods as much as I can.  And I keep my mind occupied on these long nights by reading and watching educational videos on youtube.  I probably could have gotten a gym membership and avoided the hassles of having to exercise at home.  But I didn’t really use my gym membership when I had one.  Oddly, I started losing weight and getting healthier when I gave up my gym membership.

Mental health wise I’ve been very stable for the last several days.  Perhaps due to the madness of the holidays being over. I normally do well in winter and spring.  Regardless I have my indoor exercise projects, my writing projects, and the two print books and one long audiobook I’m reading to keep me occupied on these cold days.