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.

HOW TO GET COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOG

This is a post about how to get comments and traffic on your blog. This post was originally posted by aopinionatedman.com . I take no credit for this. It’s good advice I wish I had known when I was starting out. Once again I didn’t write this post and I take no credit for it. Hope you find it enjoyable and imformative.

Looking Forward To Spring’s Rebirth

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Spring will officially begin in a few days.  In my part of the USA, we’ve had unbelievably nice weather for the last week.  Got to do some outdoor activities like watching the migrating cranes and geese a few miles from my hometown.  My part of the country has literally thousands of birds like Sandhills Cranes and Canadian Geese flying through this time of year.  The lakes, rivers, and fields will be covered with them.  It’s a sight to see for anyone remotely interested in bird watching.

I’m now exercising more outside as I’ve already done two walks in the park already.  I managed to lose 12 pounds in the winter months, even with less activity.  I was concerned how well I would do health wise with the forced inactivity.  Looks like I survived the first winter of this lifestyle overhaul quite well.  I’m down 70 pounds overall in the last year.

Been to a couple cookouts already.  Since I live in a complex with sixty other people, it’s pretty easy to get those organized with almost no advanced planning.  There were ten of us at the one tonight.  All you had to do was bring something to share with everyone else.  And it wasn’t one of those things organized by the manager of the complex.  The tenants did this entirely on our own.  We’re pretty good about organizing get togethers with no notice.  It’s almost like my freshman dorm over fifteen years ago, minus the loud music at 2 am.

One thing I have neglected during the winter months was my social life.  I didn’t go out much nor did I chat with friends as much this winter.  While we didn’t get hammered with as much snow as our East Coast friends, we still had a pretty cold winter.  Yet using the cold as a reason not to socialize was a poor excuse.  It is easy to socialize in spring and summer.  But when it’s cold, not much is going on, the nights are long, and some people are more depressed in the darker days, that when socializing with living and breathing people is needed.  There are only so many computer games and podcasts I can do before I just have to get out of the apartment.  Anyone with a job and a family knows there is more to life than just going to work everyday, spending a paycheck before it’s collected, and counting off the days and years until retirement.  I often get so rapped up in the day to day living that I forget to have a life.  Or even worse, get so wrapped up in day to day struggles that I forget how much we’ve accomplished or how much fun we’ve had with friends already.

In line with being lost in the day to day struggles, I have to keep reminding myself how far I’ve come just in the last twelve months.  Losing 70 pounds, writing a few dozen blog entries, getting outdoors some everyday, staying in contact with old friends while making a few new ones in the process, simplifying my life and decluttering my apartment, etc. are not small accomplishments.  This was all in the last 365 days.  I can only imagine what the rebirth of spring and the next twelve months will bring.

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.

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.