Medications and Mental Illness

Saw my psych doctor last week.  We haven’t changed any medications or dosages this winter.  Winter has usually been a pretty stable time for me, at least after all the nonsense of Christmas blows over.  We added a third anti psych med in October after I have a vicious but short lived psychotic breakdown.  It seems to be doing alright.  It definitely makes me fall asleep and stay asleep.  I have to take it right before bed.  Any other time I will be asleep for at least five hours straight.  I take all my meds at once right before bed.  It’s easy to remember things that way.

With these current medications I’m taking, I have to real careful about not missing doses.  I have found I don’t sleep well and have vivid dreams when I accidentally skipped doses with these meds.  Some anti depressants I was on years ago, like Prozac, could be forgiving and not affect me too bad if I missed a dose.  I suppose Prozac is one of those drugs that can build up in your body over time.  When I decided I was going off my meds back in early 2007, I was on Prozac.  At first it felt good to be not taking medications every day.  Notice I said at first.  I was able to work 60 hours a week again and was getting interested in dating again.  But the good times didn’t last.  I was off the meds entirely for almost two months before reality came back to hit me.  I probably should have committed myself for that breakdown.  I went off the meds again in early 2013.  Felt alright for two months once more before the reality came back with a vengeance.  I was lucky and smart for realizing I needed to go back on the medications.  Both times I was on medications that probably stayed in the body longer than most.  That’s got to be the only reason I did alright for weeks before I had problems.

My current medications are not as forgiving if I miss a dose.  But they have fewer side effects.  When I was on most of my previous medications I did well mentally but not physically.  I gained weight on almost all my previous psychotic medications.  I gained a lot of weight.  I gained almost two hundred pounds from when I started on psychotic medications in late 2000 until I started my current medications in spring 2013.  I didn’t get it that I had to force myself to be active and that I was using the psych medication promoting weight gain as an excuse to overeat and not be active.  But since I got serious about exercise and eating healthy I have lost forty pounds in two years.  I still have a long way to go but I am on the right path.

If I had to give advice on whether one should go off medications because of fears of weight gain and resulting problems, talk with your psych doctor and general practice doctor both before you do anything.  Do not do anything like that on your own.  You will have a breakdown and probably have to be hospitalized.  I got off easy in that I didn’t have to go to the hospital because I recognized that my mental health was falling apart early on.  Also, it should be noted, that medical advances being what they are, newer treatments with fewer side effects are being developed regularly.  I didn’t think the genetic ‘black box’ for schizophrenia would be found as soon as it was.  It was found only twelve years after the Human Genome project was finished in 2003.  I don’t know if I’ll ever live to see an outright cure for mental illnesses, but I am remaining optimistic.  It is certainly exciting times we are living in.

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Plans For Spring

 

Looking at my calendar I see that there’s less than one month until the start of Spring.  Looking out my window, I see that almost all the snow we had three weeks ago is gone and the trees are showing buds.  I also heard several flocks of Canadian Geese overhead during the last few days.  We’ve had nicer than usual weather the last several days, giving us a teaser for the spring.  Even preseason baseball practice has started.  I’m thinking it’s going to be another long year for my Colorado Rockies but since the Kansas City Royals put together some excellent teams the last couple years, it has me thinking it’s possible.  But hope springs with all the possibilities of the upcoming Spring.

Now that I’ve stabilized after the problems of the fall and the holiday season, I think that getting out of the apartment complex more is in order.  There is a cool museum in one of the nearby towns that I haven’t been to for a few years.  It’s called Pioneer Village.  Pretty cool place with a lot of antique cars, toys, nick nacks, and a full scale 1880s frontier town in the complex.  I think almost every school kid in Nebraska has made a field trip to this place.  Pioneer Village is definitely a must for any visitor to Nebraska.

Another must is the bird migrations that go on in late February and March.  Every spring thousands of Canadian Geese, Sandhills Cranes, and other migrating birds come.  The fields along the Platte River, particularly along Interstate 80, are so covered with birds the fields are white with them.  They are especially thick the first two weeks of March.  Some places along the Platte River offer guided tours that draw bird watchers from all over the country.  I probably won’t be paying for any tours. I’ll just go a few miles outside of town and check out any field near the river.  Last year I was lucky enough to see several large flocks of geese take off.  Mornings are usually best for viewing the migrating birds, but evenings are pretty good too.

I’m also planning on being at the family acreage this spring.  I haven’t been there since late October.  From what I heard the place wintered well.  A mother cat had several kittens they made it through the winter.  Dad is talking about building solar panels for the cabin.  Since I’ve helped him build a couple cabins and renovate his rental house over the last several years, I’ll help him on this project.  I got pretty decent at using power tools, saws, and wood working.  But I never got very good with electrical work.  This may be a chance to pick that skill up.

I’m going to exercise outdoors as the weather warms.  I’ve been limited to walking indoors and arm weights three times a week since late November. Haven’t gained any weight in the last month, so I’ve stopped the weight gain.  Now the weather is going to warm soon I’ll start losing again.  I should have known that losing weight last winter wasn’t normal unless you have good exercise equipment at home.  Yesterday was the first time I exercised outdoors for any real length in a month.  That large blizzard we had at the beginning of the month is mostly melted.  I’m looking forward to the start of spring.  I won’t be sorry when the winter ends.

 

 

Psych Appointment and Mid Winter Thaw

Had a psychiatric appointment this morning.  I’ve been having my ups and my downs this winter like I always do. The voices aren’t as bad most times now but they do come creeping back in at times.  It’s irritating to think that after fifteen years of working with this mental illness I still have problems with being agitated by the voices.  But even they aren’t as overwhelming as they once were.

The highs are better and the lows are not as bad as they once were.  Even my really bad times don’t last as long.  Used to be I’d have entire days that were awful.  Now it usually lasts only a couple hours at most.  Haven’t lost weight this winter but I haven’t gained any since winter really started.  My blood pressure is better.  I guess if I have to struggle losing weight then I have to relax and drop the blood pressure.

Since winter has started I’ve read at least three regular books and several audiobooks via youtube.  I’ve also gotten back into poetry writing.  It had been a couple years since I was serious about that.  I know I’ll never make money from poetry but it is a good writing exercise for days I don’t blog.  Haven’t been out and about as much this winter as previous winters because of the increased snow and ice.  Times like this winter sometimes make me miss having a job to get me out of the apartment a few hours a day.

We’ve had a few decent weather days lately.  It’s our first real mid winter thaw and we’re only four weeks from the start of spring.  It seems we traditionally had several days in a row above freezing, usually in late January.  Where I live we didn’t have that until this week, the third week of February.  I actually don’t get depressed by being inside all the time in the winter.  I use the time indoors to read and catch up on writing.  I may be lazy about exercise in the winter (more so than I would like), but days like today are a reminder that spring is only a few weeks away.  That alone is often enough to make me hopeful.

 

Budgeting While On Disability

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Bought groceries and supplies today.  So I’m set for another couple weeks even if it means the money is going to be tight for awhile.  Such is expected being on disability insurance and having limited funds to work with.  Being able to budget money is a skill everyone needs.  But it’s vitally important being on disability insurance.  Social Security Disability Insurance isn’t designed to make it’s recipients wealthy.  It is usually enough to get you by if you do a little planning and budgeting.

Every time I’m out shopping I hunt for sales and discounts.  I also have a rewards card (not a credit card) through one of the regional grocery store chains that gives discounts on gasoline purchases.  I have planned to where I usually get a 50 cent per gallon discount when I buy fuel.  As I don’t have a SUV or a pickup truck I can usually get by pretty inexpensive with gas.  I had a Ford Explorer for a few years but decided to trade it off once gas got more expensive.  It was good for hauling things around and I even made a little money hauling things around for friends and neighbors.  But it was an excessive expense that wasn’t worth it anymore, at least not for me.  Other luxury things I cut down on was eating out.  I was appalled how much money I was spending on eating out once I sat down and did budgets and reviewed my spending.  I probably eat out now only once a week on average.  And I found out I was a decent cook.  I’m especially good at grilling as I have one of those electric grills that I do almost all my meals on.

I also shop at discount stores, Goodwill (but I don’t buy furniture from Goodwill as I’m concerned about bed bugs), and Salvation Army. I buy most of my clothes out of season when they are on clearance.  You can find some good deals doing this.  I don’t use coupons as much as I should.  I don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines so I don’t get much for coupons.  But I still find deals.

Another key to living on disability insurance is staying out of debt.  Those credit card payments with interest are killers, especially on a fixed income.  All I can say if you are on disability insurance and in debt is find a way to pay those debts off.  I had some debts I could have easily gotten in trouble with.  You may have to ask for help.  You may have to negotiate with your creditors and work out some kind of deal.  You might even get some of your debts forgiven if you keep lines of communication open.  Do not avoid collections.  But do remain calm if collection agents harass you.  Getting out of debt sucks but it is more than worth it once you’re no longer making payments.

Shopping at discount stores, looking for sales, using incentive programs, and staying out of debt are vital for anyone living on fixed income.  I had friends who filed for bankruptcy. I saw how much pain and stress it caused them.  After seeing this I vowed I wouldn’t let it happen to me if I could avoid it.  I don’t have much of a margin of error with as little as I earn.  Since I don’t make much money I have to be real wise with money.  I have to control expenses.

 

 

Weight Loss And Mental Illness Revisited

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Winter is normally not a time people think about diet and exercise outside of a New Year’s Resolution.  These well intended resolutions to strive for better health usually don’t make it past the second week of January before old habits come back.  I think this is because few people don’t give enough time for positive change to take effect.  Far too many people think that adopting good habits are merely a matter of making a decision and acting on that decision.  The fact that highs and lows, wins and losses, up days and down days are not taken into consideration.  This is why so many people give up on good intentions after a couple rough days.  Very few people make allowances for setbacks and screw ups.

For my diet and exercise routine, the second half of 2015 was one setback after another.  I didn’t exercise enough, I was under too much stress, I ate too much, I got out of the habit of keeping track of what I ate, I quit lifting weights, and I wasn’t getting consistent sleep. Consistent sleep helps with weight loss and mental stability.  Without consistent sleep, hormones can become out of balance and that alone can mess with weight loss.  I gained at least 30 pounds from early July to New Year’s Eve precisely because things like exercise, sleep, stress levels, and eating were not consistent.  For most of the summer and fall of 2015 I was pulling two all nighters per week on average.  I’d try to sleep during the days but it just wasn’t the same.  I didn’t have enough sleep and I also didn’t have the quality of sleep I needed for weight loss or mental stability.  I didn’t get the consistent good nutrition I needed either.  Looking back on July to December of last year, it’s no wonder I went in reverse.  I’m also not surprised that I had two nervous breakdowns.  Fortunately I didn’t have to go to the hospital either time.

But since the first of January I have consciously made choices for better health.  I don’t pull all nighters any more.  I don’t skip taking my medications.  I take more time to relax and not feel guilty for having a small amount of time every day to clear my mind.  I exercise for at least 10 minutes every day rather than go hard for two days and take a day off like I was in the fall.  I’m back to lifting weights three times a week and I’m noticing improvements after only a few weeks.  I eat when I’m hungry and never just because the clock tells me it’s breakfast or dinner time.  Somedays I’ll have my last meal of the day by 5pm.  And others I won’t eat “breakfast” until 11 am.  I also make far more mental notes on what I’m eating.  I don’t track as strictly now because I know how many calories most foods have just by looking at the serving sizes and the labels.  But it took over a year and half of hard tracking to get that level of knowledge.

As a result of my efforts, I’ve lost seven pounds since January 1.  I want to eventually lose 150 more pounds.  But this is a life long commitment to a lifestyle change, not just a diet to be followed and endured for six months and then discarded once a goal has been met.  Overall since I started this lifestyle overhaul I’m down 35 pounds since March 2014.  The road has had detours and potholes along the way.  But I never gave up the dream of a healthier body and a more stable mind even when it seemed nothing was going right.

Getting to Know My Neighbors

We received over 15 inches of snow during this last snow storm.  It essentially shut down my hometown for a day and a half.  Fortunately we never lost power or water.  Since I was home bound for two days I had to make the best of that time.  Finished a book I was reading and almost finished a second one I have been working on for the last few weeks.  I also used the time to chat with one of my neighbors for a few hours.

This guy is roughly my age and lives on the same wing I do. We live in a low income apartment complex that is primarily senior citizens with disabilities.  Talking with him, I learned that he too has had problems in the past with older residents who don’t believe that younger people with disabilities should be allowed to live here.  He has also had problems with a few tenants who don’t believe in mental illness and think we’re just making this up because we’re ‘lazy and don’t want to work.’  He’s lived here for a few years and we have some similar interests.  He and I are both into computers and gaming.  He and I have similar backgrounds as we were both from small farming villages and we were heavily involved in school activities.  When I was visiting at his place yesterday after spending much of my day shoveling my car out of a snow drift, we got to chatting about our younger days, friends we had, and the stupid nonsense we got in as teenagers.  His path and mine didn’t cross very often as he has his group of friends and I have mine.  But we were friendly to each other and would hang out a few times a year.  But it never got to be anything regular.

I found out this guy also has schizophrenia.  In some ways he’s had it worse than I have.  He’s been hospitalized more times than I have and he wasn’t diagnosed as early as I.  Like me he started having problems in his late teens and early twenties.  Unlike me, his illness didn’t make him as socially reclusive as mine did.  I have always had a hard time socializing, especially with people I just met.  There are times I just don’t want to socialize outside of family and long term friends.  Hopefully this newfound friendship can open a few more doors for socializing.

‘I’m almost giddy’: Scientists open the ‘black box’ of schizophrenia with dramatic genetic finding

For the first time, scientists have pinned down a molecular process in the brain that helps to trigger schizophrenia. There is now the potential for early detection

Source: ‘I’m almost giddy’: Scientists open the ‘black box’ of schizophrenia with dramatic genetic finding