Exercise Pain, Spring’s Renaissance, and Gradual Improvements


I enjoy the spring season more than any other.  The weather is turning warm, the trees are blooming, the grass is turning lush green, and everything is brimming over with new life and new possibility.  I even enjoy the rain and occasional storms.  Spring is the annual rebirth of nature.

I live in a small town with several parks and lots of hiking trails.  I have visited a few of these parks on almost a daily basis for the last month.  The trees, bushes, flowers, lakes, and wildlife in these parks offer the added benefit of being able to relax and enjoy a little of the natural world while exercising.

Speaking of exercise, I’ve been doing that for longer times on an almost daily basis.  Walked in the light rain and humidity this morning for twenty minutes.  I was unhappy at first that I had to stop after a short time before the aches and pains came on.  What I didn’t take into account was I had been walking forty to sixty minutes four days a week for the last six weeks.  On the other days I was still doing at least twenty to thirty minutes a day.  I track all my exercise and eating on webmd.com in addition to keeping written logs.  When I reviewed these logs, I didn’t realize just how few days off I had.  I think I’ve had only two or three days of no exercise since April 1st.  Last year I made it a point to take at least one day off per week.  My aches and pains are no doubt from pushing myself harder and taking fewer breaks.


Fortunately my mental health hasn’t suffered.  I probably should go back to the take one day off per week to stay fresh.  When I started exercising and losing weight, I wanted the project to be sustainable weight loss and small changes enacted every so often as my physical well being increased.  I never intended for this to be temporary or drudge work.  Last spring I started tracking everything I ate.  Last summer, I started keeping tabs on how much I exercised.  Other changes I made included decreasing my carbs intake.  I rarely buy or eat bread anymore because I feel sluggish after eating more than a couple slices. I love things like bread, rice with Chinese food, and spaghetti.  So this was a large transition.  It got easier because I felt better mentally and physically on days I kept the carbs low.

A big change I made starting on New Year’s was light weight lifting.  I did this for three times a week for four months.  I gradually increased the weight involved as well as the repetitions.  Gone easy for the last week as I was beginning to over do it.  My muscles let me know I was going too hard.  But it really helped me keep exercising and eating right during the winter.  Some days the weights would be my only exercise.  In spite of the decreased activity of winter, I still lost an average of one pound a week.

Been going pretty hard on the exercise since the first warm up in early March. I haven’t had many days off from exercise. I’m starting to feel it physically.  A couple days off from the grind are in order.  Need to reset and take a little time to reflect on how much has already been accomplished during the previous year.


Stability With Schizophrenia and Updates


It’s been awhile since I posted.  Some updates and randomness are in order.  With spring being in full effect now, I’ve been outdoors and exercising every day.  We have a park that has some hiking trails that I’ve been doing for close to an hour a day about three to four days per week for the last few weeks.  Still get a little muscle soreness from this but I’m doing far better than where I was one year ago.

The mental health is even more stable at least 95 percent of the time.  I still have my occasional flare ups, especially under stress.  Fortunately I’ve gotten to where I either isolate to avoid physical contact with people or I’ll call a friend or family member and just talk my way back down.  Some of these conversations are scary even for me.  I know it’s even more so for those talking me back to sense, especially when I get personal about my rants.  I just hope friends and family don’t take anything personal because I am not vindictive or combative by nature.

I also got a different car.  A family friend was looking to sell a ten year sedan with only 34,000 miles.  So we, my family and I, took it.  My previous car was starting to have issues.  But it was over fifteen years old.  Many people don’t have houses that old.  With my newer car I’ve been getting out a little more.  I rarely travel outside my hometown during the winter months.

I’m going to be a groomsman in a college friend’s wedding this July.  They are both high school teachers in South Dakota.  It’s an outdoor wedding in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Beautiful country, especially in the summer.  If you haven’t been there, I recommend it.  I had to get measured for a suit.  I was measured a few years ago for when I was a pallbearer at my grandmother’s funeral, but since I lost weight I was due for a remeasure.  I get to spend three days in the Black Hills, always one of my favorite vacation spots.

Overall, things have been going well.  Been exercising almost everyday.  The weather is excellent.  The mental illness problems are at a minimum.  My new car is serving me well.  My old friend from college is getting married and I get to see it up close.  I’m getting out more.  No more spending entire days indoors because of winter weather.  I have been silent on this blog for a few weeks.  Not because things have gone bad, it’s because things have been going well.  Sometimes no news is good news.


Being The Proverbial Black Sheep As A Kid


Even before I became mentally ill, I had problems with fitting in with others and making friends.  It has caused me so many problems with others over the years.  When I was a child in grade school, I got in so much trouble with teachers, classmates, and family alike whenever I said anything sounding like it had no earthly reason to come from the mouth of a child.  For example, as a seven year old if I joked about how slow someone was speaking, I would try to make a joke because I saw that children and adults enjoyed humor, and say something like “Speak any slower and we could time you with a sun dial,” I would find myself in major trouble.  I was told I had “attitude problems” among other things.  Yet I would see adults joke with each other with similar humor, and worse. I couldn’t figure it out.  I was often told by adults to “grow up” and yet when I tried to act, joke, and talk like the adults I saw I got in trouble.

Even as I child I valued my freedom and privacy.  I would often go into the large backyard of my home and pace and think for hours on end.  I often did this to dream up stories, dream up new twists on old games, make up new slants on old children’s stories, and think of ways to do things better.  My classmates would ridicule me for wanting to be alone all the time and I probably concerned my parents for not wanting to socialize more with family and classmates.  I didn’t do it to be anti-social or draw attention.  I just got a lot more mileage out of socializing for short times than most people.  I didn’t do it for attention because I really didn’t want attention once I became old enough to figure out I was a running joke because I was smart and actually enjoying learning how to do new things.  I might not have spent so much time outside if I had a chemistry set.  I’d probably accidentally burned down the house instead.

My real saving grace as a kid was having two friends just as smart and eccentric as I.  My first true friend, a kid named Ben who moved to my town when we were 11, was as interested in music, dry humor, and history as I was in science.  We would often do inexpensive science experiments in the storage room of his parents’ grocery store.  One time we took some old Micro Machine cars, taped magnets to the bottom of the cars, weighted the top of the cars with pennies and dimes, and got them to run along a track of magnets at least three feet long.  We didn’t realize that we made a very crude version of Mag Lev transportation.  Ben and I also joked that we would eat nothing but meat, cheese, and milk for a month to “protest the wholesale slaughter of defenseless plants.”  Yeah, the Atkins Diet as designed by 12 year olds.  Needless to say our sixth grade classmates didn’t get the humor.

I never did enjoy the toilet and locker room style of humor that my classmates did.  Even in high school, I really liked the comedy of people ranging from George Carlin to Jeff Foxworthy to Bill Hicks.  While most of my classmates were listening to Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and George Strait, my two core friends and I were listening to groups like Metallica, AC/DC, and the Seattle grunge groups that were around in the 90s (much to the chagrin of my parents).

We didn’t win many style points with our classmates because we were contrarian thinkers, often asked questions in class, didn’t just ‘go along to get along’, openly questioned policies and practices of adults that were counter productive and senseless, and we didn’t particularly like sports.


I was often chided for preferring to spend my weekends and summer days reading books, namely non fiction.  To me, the things that occurred naturally in the world and universe was far more interesting than fairy tales and fantasy books.  To this day I have never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K Rowling.  Reading books about science, biology, astronomy, chemistry, military history, etc. were interesting enough without the magical Disney nonsense.

I also didn’t do well dating as a kid.  My other quirky best friend, a girl named Shaunna, and I would often hang out on weekends watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on SyFy channel if there weren’t any high school dances nearby.  It wasn’t until the last five years did it dawn on me that the reason I did so poor in the numbers of girls I dated was precisely because of my best friend that was a girl.  I was probably shot down by most other girls because they thought I was a player or swinger.  But as a clueless seventeen year old that thought never once entered my mind.  If only I knew then even half of what I know now.

One thing I do know now is that normal is boring.  Normal is mundane.  Normal does not change the world or even a neighborhood for the better.  Far too many people over the centuries have died fulfilling only a fraction of their potential because they feared being abnormal.  I never had, I still don’t, have a fear of standing out and going against the tide of acceptable public opinion.  As far as I can tell, my old friends Ben and Shaunna are still the same way.   Sure it is frustrating to prove a point and still not sway normal people.  But I don’t want to lose the intelligence, empathy, and creativity that were the tools God gave me to try to make my small mark in my corner of existence.  It causes me frustration but it doesn’t cause me fear.  I got over that a very long time ago.  My older brother, being the typical tormenting brother who’d try to whip his younger sibling back into line, would often ask me things like ‘Why can’t you be normal?’  My answer, years later, is something like ‘I tried being normal once but didn’t like it.’  😀



Start of Baseball Season and Spectator Sports With Mental Illness


Today is Easter Sunday, one of the major events and celebrations of the Christian religion. For baseball fans in America, like myself, it is also the start of the Major League baseball season.  Hope springs eternal for the fans of all teams, even for Rockies fans like myself.  While I am hopeful that we can put up a better showing, especially after two disaster seasons, the logical part of my brain tells me it will be a typical Rockies season: Be competitive until Memorial Day, have a lousy June and July, and start thinking about Broncos football after the All Star Break.  But I got hooked on the Colorado Rockies after going to a few games with college friends and my family over the years.  I became a die hard after going to a World Series game in Denver in 2007.  Even though we lost to the Red Sox in a four game sweep, it seemed that fans in Denver were so psyched to have made it that far that it was Christmas before they realized they were swept in the Series.  In all fairness and respect, the Red Sox had such a great team in those years that almost no one would have had a chance.

As much as I like watching live sports, especially baseball and college football, in many cases I prefer to watch at home or a friend’s place on a HDTV as opposed to watch games in person.  As a life long Nebraskan, I’ve been to several Husker football games over the years.  My family has season tickets and my dad graduated from the University.  Haven’t been to many since my mental illness problems really set in.  Part of this is due to I don’t handle large crowds in small spaces well.  And 90,000 people in a football stadium qualifies as large crowd in a small space.  As tough as I find large crowds in open air arenas, enclosed crowds like basketball games and music concerts are even tougher.  I get overwhelmed easy and I have fears of heights and enclosed spaces.  I get air sick climbing a ladder, let alone sitting in the third tier of the cheap seats.

So to get my fix of live entertainment without the stresses of dealing with large crowds, I go to things like open air concerts in the city parks, minor league baseball games in Omaha (go Storm Chasers!), and high school football games on Friday nights.  My friends and I can get seats right behind the dugouts for a minor league game in Omaha for only 12 dollars apiece.  Parking isn’t pricey either.  If you watch yourself at the concession stands, you can have a real good time at a minor league ball game for less than 25 dollars per person.  And you might even able to say ‘I saw such-and-such hot shot pitcher/outfielder before he was a star.’

I am glad to see the start of baseball season.  Many no doubt think it’s a boring game where things happen only when you’re not paying attention.  But I like it because it’s played every day, so it’s a more relaxed mentality than football or soccer.  Some may be upset because of the high salaries the players make.  All I can say is if I was one of the top 1,000 people in the world at blogging or any profession, I’d be making ridiculous amounts of money too.  Some of top people on youtube make over a million dollars per year.  I’d be making a lot of money too if thousands of people paid to see me work or if I had millions of viewers and got a few advertisers.  But I’m digressing.  I enjoy the relaxed nature of baseball, I enjoy the history, and I enjoy the uniqueness of the game.  For all I know, this could be the Rockies year.  If not, Wait ’till Next Year!


Visiting my Brother’s Kids


Last week my brother’s kids had Spring Break and came to Nebraska to spend a few days to visit their grandparents and their Uncle Zach.  These kids, three nephews and a niece, are ages 10, 8, 6, and 3.  They’re old enough to be real fun yet not old enough they’ve become moody and angsty like many teenagers.  As far as kids go they are quite well behaved compared to some kids I’ve seen.  Like most kids, they ask a lot of questions and get quite wound up when they sit still too long.  This used to cause me anxiety when they were younger as, with my mental illness, I prefer calm and stability as opposed to the semi controlled chaos that occurs with raising children.  After a few years of this, I just developed the attitude of ‘take ’em to the park and let ’em run it off.’  As their uncle, it’s not my job to keep them entertained.  They do that quite well by themselves.  All parents have figured out, but it took me a few years to learn, the time to be concerned is not when they’re hollering and running around.  It’s when things suddenly become too quiet is when they’re up to something they shouldn’t be.

I myself am not a parent.  It’s not because I don’t like children, I enjoy those four kids a lot.  It’s because not only do they take a lot of work, they also take a lot of money and time.  I simply can’t afford to raise any kid on social security and part time menial labor salary.  Since I’m not a Don Juan type, in fact my dating track record is absolutely terrible, I don’t think I can attract a woman to marry and/or have kids with in the first place.  Some people have a problem where they attract or are attracted to people who cause them grief and headaches.  My problem was I could never get anyone to even agree to something as simple as a drink or two at a bar or even a walk in the park.  Financial reasons aside, I couldn’t have kids even if I ever got to where I thought I could handle it.  Having a mental illness, for me anyway, puts me at a large disadvantage with how well I can attract a spouse and raise kids.  So I’ll just stick to being content with being Uncle Zach.


Losing Weight on Anti-Psychotic Meds Update

Exactly one year ago today, March 17 2014, I started on my plan to lose weight and get back into good health.  This was not a whim or a vague hope that “I hope I get this done” or “I need to get lose weight.”  I actually sat down, wrote my goal weight and gave myself a time frame of five years to accomplish this.  I stated that I will lose at least 200 pounds before March 17, 2019.  One year has passed.  In one year I have lost 70 pounds, my resting heart rate has dropped at least 15 points, my blood pressure is down enough I don’t need blood pressure meds, I can now walk 45 minutes per day without problems, and I’m down 2 full sizes in all my clothing.  These positive changes were done even while on anti-depressants.

One of the most common side effects of anti-psychotic medications and anti-depressants is weight gain.  I gained at least 200 pounds in 14 years during the course of treatment for schizophrenia.  I did try to lose weight a few times in those 14 years, but those efforts were half hearted and had no real commitment.  I believed that weight gain was inevitable because it was statistically proven that weight gain was a high possibility.  It wasn’t until I decided to ‘lose weight or get busy dying’ that plans started to formulate.  I asked myself ‘why do I want to lose weight.’  My answers were a) there’s so much cool things I haven’t gotten to see or do yet, b) i don’t want to be one of these guys who ends up on a motorized cart by age 40 and dead by age 45, and c) i have too much going for me to just give up and wait for death.  I’ll go into more detail on these reasons.

There really is so much more cool stuff I want to see and do.  Sure I’ve made friends from all over the country and the world during my years in college.  But I would absolutely love to visit at least some of these people in their home states and even home countries.  Wasn’t going to happen with me in poor health and suffering from sleep apnea.  I flew on an air liner once when I was seventeen.  I remember how uncomfortable those seats were even as a kid.  The poor stewardess would have probably taken one look at me and thought ‘it would be easier for this guy to fly as live freight 🙂 ‘  Taking a train is really not a good option as USA has probably the worst passenger train service in the developed world.  I always envied Europe and Japan as a guy could just get practically anywhere on high speed rail with less headaches than driving and cheaper than flying.  I wasn’t going to be traveling anywhere with as much as I weighed one year ago.  It’s still a work in progress, but in a couple years when I’m down much more than yes I will make it a point to travel more.  Laugh all you want, but I have never been in the eastern half of USA.  Farthest east I’ve ever been is the Mississippi River.

The motorized cart and early grave options were not appealing, to say the least.  Now I’m down 70 pounds, they are even less so.  Living in low income housing with mostly senior citizens and people on disability, I see people in poor health every day.  Every one of these people were young once and in good health.  Many of these people made lifestyle decisions that contributed to the loss of their health.  Some got involved in drugs, some became alcoholics, many ate way too much and did way too little exercise, and some just gave up on life when they got a diagnosis of a health or mental problem.  Some of these people are really sad cases that are literally waiting for death.  That’s a real terrible way to live.  I don’t know if there is an afterlife or if my Hindu friends are right in that we keep coming back in one form or another.  But I know I’m alive and I exist right here and and right now.  That is what I know I have.  And I refuse to let it slip away.  The fact that I was conceived and came out as a human, why I won the genetic/cosmic lottery jackpot on that alone.  I had a far better chance being a chunk of granite or a cockroach than being a member of the self aware and curious species we humans are.  I, and all humans, have the winning lottery ticket.  We just have to cash it in and enjoy the good fortune.

Mental Illness or no, I still have much going for me.  I still maintained most of my natural intelligence.  The thing I really miss is the mathematic ability.  It’s kind of tough trying to do calculus (or even multiply large numbers) when the voices in my mind are trying to figure the problem out as well and are all on different parts of the problem 🙂  That’s the big part of my intelligence I lost.  Surprisingly, everything else is still intact.  No I can’t manage stress well and I have a hard time decoding body language and office politics.  I was recently asked by my therapist what I would do for work if I was cured.  I blurted out I would go into financial management because that’s what I studied in college.  After some thought, that’s not what I would do.  If by some act of God and/or science I were to have a complete recovery, I’d go to a trade school and learn how to set up computer networks and do IT work.  I could take skills like this and work literally without borders.  I could start my own business and charge people quite a bit to do the nuts and bolts computer work that many people simply don’t want to.  Other good skills that would be seriously worth considering are electrician, plumbing, welding, carpentry, and mechanics.  Should any of my readers be getting out of high school soon and want to go on to college afterward, seriously consider going into the trades through a trade school or a community college.  The costs of a trade school are much lower than a four year college and you’ll definitely have a skill that will make you employable from day one.  I studied business management in college in part because I had to give up my dream of medical research and also because I  had absolutely no training in money, budgeting, finance, or accounting in high school.  Mental illness or no, I really screwed myself not studying for a specific job in college.  The budgeting skills and money management I learned in college has come in handy as I have learned to hunt for bargains, not get into debt, become streamlined and a minimalist, and still live quite well on less than $15,000 a year.  Learn from the older man with a few years of experience under his belt.  Don’t make the assumption I did twelve years ago that ‘any degree is a good degree.’  Simply isn’t so.  As much as college costs anymore, you have to make it pay off.

Year One in the process of this lifestyle overhaul is in the history books.  I still have at least two more years of work ahead of me.  But a solid foundation is laid.  Now it’s time to keep building on it.  Let’s see what Year Two brings.  Stay tuned.



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