Physical Therapy

Completed my first week of chiropractic therapy today.  One week down, eleven more to go.  The x-rays on my back show that my hip and shoulder are slightly out of alignment.  Same x-rays show I have little to no curve to my spine.  The doctor said that the car accident only made things on my lower back worse. In addition to going to the office three days a week, I do neck and back strengthening exercises at home every day.  Getting my back into proper working order is going to be another of my winter projects.

Next Tuesday I am getting my throat and stomach scoped again to see how bad my ulcer problem is.  So it looks like I’m going to be getting real familiar with hospitals and doctor’s offices in the coming weeks.  Talked to nurse this afternoon over the phone.  She took down essentailly my entire medical history.  After I get scoped, who knows where we go from there.  I’m not even sure how ulcers are treated.

Right now it is possible I might not get to settle into the routine I so desperately crave.  Nothing in my life has been routine since at least late spring.

Advertisements

Fifteen Years With A Mental Illness Diagnosis

lisa_sobaka

I have been having problems with depression, anxiety, delusional thoughts, and excessive anger since I was seventeen.  I was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in October 2000.  I’ve been treated for these mental health problems for fifteen years.  In fact, today as I write this is probably the anniversary of when I was diagnosed.  I’m not exactly sure as those hectic weeks leading up to my diagnosis are a blur.  I do remember that I was having mini psychotic breaks at least twice a week when I was call home and just yell at my family members for no real reason.  Now, I had a good family as a child.  While I had a good family I struggled socially.  I didn’t have many friends or confidants, likely because I was eccentric and one of these really smart kids who was too stubborn to hide the fact I was smart.  That didn’t win many favor points with my school mates.  But, the fact I did have a good family who held me accountable was probably one of the reasons I was able to do well in spite of my mental illness.

I grew up in a very small farming community of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska.  It was one of those places that life changed with the seasons more than anything.  Social activities centered around farming, school activities, and church groups.  It was one of those places where everyone knew at least one thing about everyone.  It was also one of those places that was remote enough that we thought nothing of getting in the car and driving an hour and a half to the nearest Wal-Mart.  Lack of access to proper mental health care is one of the reasons I left my hometown.  Yet I’m only an hour and a half drive from my family, so not terribly far in case of crisis.  But also far enough I’m able to have my own space and my own life.  I currently live in a small college town of less than 50,000 people.  So it’s still one of those places were the pace of life changes with the seasons.

After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I still wouldn’t withdraw from college until the next spring.  By then the mental health problems were bad enough I left my dorm room only to go to classes and twice a day to go to the dining hall.  Had no social life and I was in danger of flunking out of school entirely.  So I left college and took several weeks to regroup.  I went back to college in the fall of 2001 with a changed major and better treatment for my mental illness.  I originally started as a pre-med student before switching over to business management.  I graduated in May 2004.  Even though I never worked a job requiring my degree, I am glad I had those classes because they taught me budgeting and how economics works.  I probably would have found a job requiring a degree had I left the farm belt of Nebraska.  But with my inconvenient mental illness flare ups I would not have held such a job long enough to support myself.  I ultimately qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance in late 2008.  I have worked since, primarily as a part time evening janitor and maintenance man at the county courthouse.  Held that job for four years.

I haven’t held a “real job” besides doing temporary work here and there for three years.  But I have come to the realization that my self worth as a human is not in the job I work.  Many people forget this, especially men like myself who tend to be obsessive about our pursuits.  Even though I’m living on social security disability money I am also debt free.  Not making payments any more is a good feeling that takes away a good deal of my previous stress and anxiety.  I’ve also been blogging about mental illness issues for two and a half years.  Feel free to look over some of my previous posts.  It’s been a long, hard, and strange trip.  But one that I have survived and learned a great deal from.  Who knows what the next fifteen years will bring.  It’ll be 2030 by then and I’ll be fifty years old.

Return to ‘Normal’ with Schizophrenia

It’s been a week since I was in the emergency room for getting my esophagus scoped.  Had to take it easy for a couple days but I’m back to normal.  At least as normal as things are going to get with schizophrenia.  It’s been two weeks since I had a third anti psychotic medication added.  It appears to be doing the trick as I haven’t had any kind of upsets or flare ups in anxiety or agitation for several days.  I’m even sleeping better now.  I still keep odd hours as I typically do better at night when there are less stimuli and fewer people out and about. I can say things are starting to return to normal again.

It has been some time since I was able to have any routine for any length of time.  I had my best friend’s wedding in July.  In addition to the wedding I had the last of my grandparents die.  While I wasn’t completely torn apart by my grandmother’s death, I know it effected me in other ways.  I got out of a regular sleep pattern, which makes mental illness problems worse.  I became especially lazy about watching what I ate and didn’t exercise as much as usual.  I was more irritable and short tempered too.

I had what has essentially become my late summer or early fall mini psychiatric break in early October.  Traditionally I have my break downs in August or early September.  I was hoping to make it through the rough patches and lack of routine without a breakdown.  No such luck.  Fortunately I was able to talk down and burn myself out.  For most people as bad off as I was, going a mental health hospital is the best option.  Since I have such a great support system in my immediate and extended family, I was able to talk my way out of my flare up.  I don’t know how my family is able to deal with my flare ups and break downs without taking them personal.  It has to be hard.  It’s hard enough for me when I’m going through them.  I am concerned for when my family members begin dying off and I have to find different support people.  This is a fear of mine.  Perhaps by then treatments will be developed that are even better then what are available now.  Maybe there will even be a cure.  In the meantime I keep moving on and attempt to keep a since of normal with schizophrenia.

Recovering From Several Rough Days With Mental Illness

lisa_sobaka

Had several rougher days than normal lately.  One of those days involved a bad episode where I was close to checking myself into the local psych hospital.  Fortunately one way for me to break out of bad episodes is to just talk my way out of them with friends and family, literally allowing myself to speak out of my distress.  It is a tough process for all involved but it does work, at least in my case.  I do not recommend this for most people because there can be many hurt feelings on the part of support people, friends and family.  I think the reason it works for my case is that I grew up in a stable family who would drop everything for one of their own at a moment’s notice.  My family handles these problems like champions and saints.  I don’t know how they do it without taking these episodes personal.  After I’ve burned myself out I make it a point to tell them that it’s nothing personal and I’m sorry for what happened.

Saw my psych doctor on Monday afternoon.  We added a new psych medication and a temporary medication to aid in sleeping.  Haven’t been sleeping terribly well lately either.  The psych issues and the sleep problems just feed on each other no doubt.  But I’m a couple days into a recovery.  Things look promising again.  I hope things keep going better.  I’ll keep you posted as I document these last rough several days and my attempts at recovery.

Managing Anger With Schizophrenia

82957300_zps9ce11709

Things have been more or less consistent the last several days.  I’m still getting out and exercising as I’m breaking in a new pair of heavy duty hiking boots most days.  Started lifting weights at least 3 times per week again.  Still working through educational programs and khanacademy.org .  Been watching shameless amounts of old tv shows through Netflix.  I’ve plowed through half of season 1 of Star Trek: Enterprise just in the last week.  In short things have been going pretty good and steady for 90 percent of the time.

Sadly, I still have that 10 percent of the time that still causes me problems.  Many of these problems are partly due to a new neighbor in my complex.  This man has been irritable to almost everyone in our complex.  I refuse to go into details but this individual is the angriest and most closed minded man I have ever met.  He doesn’t believe in mental illness at all.  I will say no more.

I haven’t filed any complaints against this tenant because I’ve previously filed complaints against tenants that we’re being uncivil with no results.  Usually problems like these have wound up being solved when these tenants would move or get evicted over violating terms of the lease.  I’ve been at my current apartment for several years and I have had problem neighbors come and I’ve seen problem neighbors go.  Nothing new.

It bothers me at times and sometimes provokes emotions ranging from mild irritability to a nagging sense of anger.  I don’t enjoy having these nagging senses of anger.  I’m not a confrontational or violent man by nature.  And confronting others will only make things worse.  I refuse to get evicted or committed over annoying and irritable people who will, in time, get a massive dose of karma courtesy of their own actions.  As uncomfortable as that nagging sense of anger is, I just allow it to pass in a controlled and limited burn.  I no longer try to force myself to be happy nor do I fear this anger anymore.  What I do instead is allow myself to feel angry without acting on it.  I don’t fear getting angry because I have the good sense to let it go gradually and constructively rather than allow it build up for days.  Just because I feel anger doesn’t mean I’m going to act on it.  I enjoy having the escape valve of free will and self control.

Learning to manage anger with schizophrenia is not a skill that can be learned in one day.  It is a trial and error process that is ongoing and never ending.  I am much better at it now than I was 15 years ago.  And I plan on being much better than I am now with the passing of another 15 years.  Feeling anger is not bad or evil.  It is how anger is channeled or acted on that determines whether anger is constructive or destructive.  It is also important to note that what we do send out will come back on us over a long enough time line.  Or as one of my college friends crassly put it “Karma’s got a large boot and kicks asses harder than we can.”

Dealing With Uncivil Behavior With A Mental Illness

arguing-1

I absolutely hate any time some fools feel like they are required to spout off and read off a laundry list of transgressions (most of which are exaggerated or imagined) that another group has committed.  I have never understood why ‘normal’ people seem to thrive on interpersonal conflicts and strife.

We see it all the time; liberals vs. conservatives, racial divides, capitalists vs. socialists, men and women calling each other out, religious adherents and atheists unloading on each other, nerds and jocks despising each other on every high school campus, the elderly thinking all young people are lazy and unruly while the young believing the elderly are all parasitizing via social security and not providing adequate guidance, etc.  etc.  Even those of us in the mentally ill community often have our issues with each (namely among the medicate vs. don’t medicate or the work vs. disability insurance routes).  The most ironic part of these interpersonal squabbles is regardless of what side of an argument you are on, each side has at least a few legitimate points.  In spite of our differences we really aren’t that different.  And the way we treat each other over these minor differences is really wrong and petty.

I definitely have my beliefs about many topics that we humans think upon. I will under no circumstances discuss anything of any intellectual weight or contention unless I am for sure that the discussion will remain civil and not devolve into a modern version of two bands of cavemen brandishing sticks and grunting at each other over who gets the last slabs of wooly mammoth meat.  I promise here and now if I ever make it to any kind of fame I will never volunteer to take part in any debate with another person or panel under any circumstances unless I am completely cured of schizophrenia.

To me, listening to debates is the same as watching monkeys at the zoo fling manure at each other. It makes a major mess, the monkeys get riled up for awhile, and nothing is really accomplished.  I may do a TEDx talk if I ever gained any kind of traction, but that is decades away.  I’ve seen too many debates and ‘Crossfire’ type shows to believe that any kind of informing, enlightenment, and mutual respect goes on.  Do not even get me going on politics and voting.  I intentionally lie to pollsters just to throw a small wrench in their numbers.  I know they interview thousands of potential voters, but since politicians have blatantly and knowingly lied to constituents ever since there were politicians and constituents I figure this is my little way of protesting without being labeled like one of these hippies from the 1960s or one of the Occupy Wall Street guys.  I probably shouldn’t lie as it violates the whole Golden Rule (and I don’t mean ‘he who has the most gold has the most rule’).

One of the religious teachings I agree with states ‘let the one lacking in sin (or faults) throw the first stone.’  I have no doubt that every belief system in the world has their own uniquely worded version of this.  It is one that while we do not practice all the time. If we did, at least 90 percent of our interpersonal strife would immediately vanish.  When we are actually intellectually honest we will acknowledge we don’t know everything, we don’t have all the answers, and we have faults in our beliefs.  We are not perfect, no one is, and we would be better off to not expect perfection out of anyone.  We know it is right to treat others with respect.  We know it feels good when we are treated with respect ourselves.  Do to others as you would have done to yourself isn’t just a feel good meme or ancient proverb derived two millennium ago, it is a basic pillar on which civilized life is built on.  The whole idea of I got to get mine and kill or be killed is a relic of pre history that would be best left in a museum, not practiced in our interpersonal, inter business, and inter national relations.

poster

Anyway, as a mentally ill person I have a hard time dealing with uncivilized behavior and heightened emotions (namely negative ones) without the whole deal feeling like it is becoming a personal attack.  I literally feel physically threatened and scared to the point of anger (anger often is just a mask for fear) during heated discussions.  As a man who is much larger than most, I don’t think it would bode well for anyone if I went Ice Age Neanderthal hunter on an unsuspecting person who is either trying to win a discussion or  just being a troll.

In short, to my mentally ill friends and readers, feeling like melting down on someone in a heated situation may be unavoidable, but never act out on it.  Ever.  Fortunately I haven’t been in a fight since sixth grade, long before I got a mental illness or twice the size of most humans.  Sometimes a person just has to cut their losses and run, especially when dealing with mental illness.  Dealing with people who refuse to act civil and risking an assault charge because you had a mental break is not worth it.

A Sense of Normal With Mental Illness

This summer has not been a typical summer for me.  I served as a groomsman in a friend’s wedding.  I lost a grandmother who influenced my life for nothing but the better.  I also got kind of lazy about watching what I ate and gained 15 of the almost 70 pounds I had lost overall.  But I also went through the entire summer with only one flare up of the schizophrenia.  This happened back in early July.

Summers are usually tough times for me.  This is when I feel my most irritable and easily agitated.  Some of my worst flare ups occur in July and August every year like clockwork.  I’ve seen research suggesting that a good portion of people have more problems with mental illness during certain times of year.  I think my problems in summer are made worse by the heat of summer.  It’s a dry heat most of the time in my home state of Nebraska.  When it does rain the humidity can be rough.

Things have been settling down and getting back to more typical for the last three weeks.  I’ve gotten serious about dieting and exercise again and have lost 10 pounds since my grandma’s funeral.  My problems with irritability, anger, and anxiety are subsiding again.  We also had a week when it was unseasonably cool in the middle of August.  It was an early preview of the fall that will be starting in a few weeks.  We haven’t had an unbearably hot summer this year but it was hot enough for several weeks just enough to limit outdoor activity more than I would have liked.