Plugging Along Through Summer With A Mental Illness

Mentally I’m still stable for the most part.  I sometimes have moments of irritability and anxiety.  They usually last for only a few minutes.  I’m glad I haven’t lashed out at anyone because of these bouts.  I fear with as on edge as most people are these days, my lashing out at even family wouldn’t go over well.  So far I’ve been able to fit and fume to myself and keep these flare ups from blowing up into breakdowns.

My cleaning lady is back on the job.  She comes back in a couple days.  I miss my neighbors.  I was sad to see them leave.  But I am coping alright.

The college football season is all but cancelled in the US.  I’m sad to see this happen but I hope it can come back next fall and we have a mass produced vaccine before long.  I have heard that Russia already has one that they are trying to mass produce.  Reports like this give me hope that the rest of the world can have vaccines soon.  Several other countries, including the US, already have vaccines in human trials.  A hospital in my state was looking for volunteers to test out a possible vaccine.  If I didn’t have a mental illness, I probably would have signed up.

Been sleeping well lately.  I usually sleep four or five hours at a time in the night.  I usually wake at least once to visit the restroom.  If I pace myself and stretch before I get out of bed, I can avoid the worst of the morning aches and pains.  It does take a few minutes, but if I stretch my legs and back before I get out of bed I can get around alright in the mornings.  I still take some advil with breakfast every morning.  I usually take it only once a day.  The daily aches and pains are about the only part of being middle age I don’t care for.  I do miss my easy mobility but I do like the idea of becoming a wise elder. Maybe I can put my knowledge to work afterall.

 

Yet More Changes In Sleep Patterns

I’ve been having changes in my sleep patterns again, this time probably for the better overall.  I’m usually wanting to go to bed around 10pm and I’ll sleep for three hours.  Then I’ll wake up and be up for an hour or two.  Then I’ll go back to sleep until 8am.  Now I spend most of my waking time in daylight hours.  Earlier this summer I spent most of my waking life in the overnight hours.  But I do think it’s for the better.

I was feeling a little more short tempered and easily irritated for a few days earlier this month.  I think the changes of sleep may be a way to ward off bigger problems in the future.  But I’m starting to feel better again even if I am sleeping more.  But at least I sleep when most of the world sleeps now.

May 19, 2018

I’m currently at my parents’ house for the next couple days.  There was some maintenance work that needed to be done at my apartment.  But as long as I have my computer and even average internet service, I can get everything I need done.

Been sleeping more than I would like again.  Not sure what to make of that.  I’ve also been more frustrated and short tempered and depressed than usual for the last couple weeks.  Normally spring is my favorite time of year.  So I’m not sure what’s going on.  Still getting more active and being more careful about what I eat.  Since I am at my parents’ house, I’ve been doing more socializing in person than my usual.

Being back in a small town for the first time in months, I had forgotten how quiet things could be.  I had gotten used to hearing people in my hallways and knocking on doors for most of the day.  I was also hearing ambulance and fire sirens a few times a day too as I lived on a busy street.  And I forgot how dark it gets at night in rural areas.  It’s almost eerily dark.  Yet it was something I had taken for granted while growing up.

I plan on spending another couple days here.  I really hadn’t had much peace and quiet in my life for the last few weeks.  I’m ready for things to settle down again.  Dare I say, I actually miss winter now.  I don’t miss the cold and snow, but I do miss the quiet days and down time.  I usually do pretty good writing in the winter months.

My back still flares up from time to time.  The worst part is that I can’t stand for more than ten minutes without real bad back pain.  I’m afraid I may have to go back to a chiropractor.  I’ve already had a couple rounds of treatments since my car accident.  But I’m getting more and more afraid that this back pain might be chronic even as I lose weight.  It’s really sad as I used to walk thirty minutes a day, five days per week before my car accident.  I know now that wreck messed me up more than I cared to admit.  Hopefully as I lose more weight, the back pain can subside.

As it is, I’m taking it easy for the next couple days as things are getting straightened out back home.  And I am enjoying the first true downtime in the last few weeks.

Taking Care of Physical Health With Mental Illness

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Took some time today to take care of my physical health by going to the dentist for my annual check up.  Had no cavities or problems besides one of my older fillings needing replaced.  I’ll get that done in a couple weeks.  Everything checked out fine at the dentist.  I wasn’t expecting any problems as I don’t eat much for sugary food anymore.  Anytime I drink soda pop it’s sugarless soda anymore.  It does feel good to have that taken care of for another year.

I haven’t been eating nearly as much these last two months.  I especially haven’t eaten much this month.  I usually eat only two meals a day and it’s mainly because I’m just not that hungry.  I’ve noticed my food cravings really went down once I started taking a daily multi vitamin.

Mentally I’m feeling pretty stable.  I occasionally feel short periods of anxiety and irritability.  These usually happen shortly after I wake up.  I’ve traditionally done better at night than day.  I don’t take my anti anxiety medication anymore.  Just haven’t needed it lately.

I’m exercising and getting outside some everyday.  It helps that the weather is cooling off. Hopefully I can get a few more weeks of outdoor activity in before the cold weather hits.

 

 

Career, Family, and Mental Illness

I always wanted to have a great career in the medical science field.  I loved hearing stories about scientists like Einstein, Curie, Pasteur, Edison, etc. even as a small child.  One of the earliest books I remember reading was about Louis Pasteur and his ideas about germs.  I wanted to make good discoveries that would benefit people.  I wasn’t so concerned about becoming rich as long as I was making a positive difference.

As much thought as I put into my future career as a child I didn’t put much thought into marriage and family.  I figured I’d probably follow the same path my parents and grandparents did, meet someone a couple years after finishing high school and get married a few years later.  But I ran into problems with the beginnings of my mental illness while still in high school.  It was my best friend who suggested that I may have a serious mental illness rather than traditional teenage moodiness.  Turns out she was right even back then.

Since I was struggling to figure out the nuances of my mental illness and trying to keep my grades up in college, I swore off dating entirely the last three years I was in college.  I probably could have dated some but I thought I needed to devout all my time and energy to getting through college and my outside reading.  I also didn’t feel right about burdening a woman with my mental health problems while I was trying to figure them out for myself.

I have had flare ups on family members and close friends.  They were painful for me and no doubt painful to those who were catching the force of my breakdowns.  I would much prefer to have a mental illness that would allow me to break down and uncontrollably sob and weep.  But my illness, being what it is, doesn’t allow that.  I haven’t cried in over ten years about anything, not even at my grandparents’ funerals.  Unfortunately the way my mind is wired I have breakdowns where I’ll yell at and curse even those I care about the most.  And I refuse to put a girlfriend or wife through that.  I especially refuse to have a psychotic breakdown around children.  My brother has four kids, aged twelve, nine, seven, and five.  I haven’t had a breakdown around them and I avoid them when I am feeling shaky.  I have had to not attend Thanksgiving and Easter in years past because I was fearful of having a breakdown around my brother’s or cousins’ kids.  As it is I am the uncle who treats the kids essentially the same way I do adults and joke around with them.  I don’t want to ruin that.

I don’t have a wife or girlfriend or kids because of my mental illness.  It’s bad enough dealing with it on my own.  I refuse to take my problems out on anyone else if it can be avoided.  I know myself well enough that I know I would be a bad and unstable husband and father because of my schizophrenia.  That’s why I won’t marry or even date.

First Day Back Exercising

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Today was the first day I did any real exercise since I threw out my back six weeks ago.  I can tell I have gotten real rusty and out of shape in the six weeks I spent mending my back.  I walked for only ten minutes, enough to get the blood moving but that’s about all.  I’m not sore from walking but I can tell I am out of practice.  It is quite hot in my hometown as late July and August are always the hottest times of the year.  I’m still not quite adjusted to the heat as I haven’t been outside much while my back was mending.  And it was quite a cool and wet spring this year, so I was used to exercising indoors this spring.

I’m going to start lifting arm weights again.  I’ll start that tonight.  It has been kind of an odd tradition for me to lift arm weights and do stretching while watching Star Trek reruns. A friend of mine got me started on that last summer.  I’m most of the way through Season 3 of Star Trek: Enterprise.  But when my back was healing I didn’t lift any arm weights or do much for stretching.  I’m sure I’m going to be just as rusty with the weights as I was the walking.  I’ll have to use the light weights for a couple weeks until I’m back to normal.

I also starting tracking what I eat again.  I got discouraged for the last few months and was lazy about tracking.  I was especially lazy when I couldn’t exercise outdoors and then after I hurt my back.  Before I hurt my back I had some unexplained foot pain that limited my walking for over two weeks.  So I haven’t been able to exercise hardly at all since the weather warmed up.  And I had to exercise indoors this spring because it was chilly and rainy almost every day.

When I was at my psych doctor last time, I had gained twenty pounds since the start of the year.  That was one month ago.  I’m sure I’ve gain some more as I was not exercising because of my back.  But my back is good again.  I can sleep in a regular bed again after weeks in a recliner.  I get more sleep in a regular bed but I fall asleep faster in my recliner.  I can’t figure that one out.

Because of my back pain and lack of activity I’ve been more depressed and irritable than usual.  I’m sorry I don’t make a very good patient.  But in the handful of times I’ve been in a hospital I make it a point to never get irritable with the nurses and doctors.  I force myself to be on good behavior I suppose.  When I’m healing on my own I can be more short tempered and depressed than usual.  I got angry with two of my best friends over a week ago.  I’m still embarrassed about that.  One of these friends I got mad at I hadn’t ever had an argument with and we’ve been friends for fifteen years.  Another was my best friend from high school and we have raised our voices to each other only a handful of times, mostly when I was in the grip of a mental breakdown.  I’m embarrassed I let those things happen.  I grew up in a family where we rarely yelled at each other and never had instances where we stopped talking to people.  We may not talk to each other every day but we will drop everyone for one of our own in crisis.  Even my extended family is like this to each other.

I’ve mended from my back issues, finally.  It was one of the longest six week stretches I was ever part of.  I’m beginning to exercise again.  I’m starting to socialize again.  I’m beginning to track what I eat again.  I haven’t yet got my blinds fixed but that is coming.  I might even get new carpet by summer’s end.  After months when almost nothing seemed to go right I think I’m starting to turn the corner.  Maybe things will start to get better.

 

 

Stability and Moving Into Summer

It’s been three months since I had my last psychotic breakdown.  I have been on a different medication since.  It is working better than my previous medication.  I am more optimistic, more social, less depressed, less irritable, and I haven’t had hallucinations in three months.  The only true negative of the last several weeks was the back injury that made me inactive for three weeks.  I can lay on my stomach and get up now.  But I won’t sleep on my back in a traditional bed until I no longer have back pain.  I’ve gotten used to sleeping in a recliner.  I’ve gotten used to going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier.  I’m usually up by 6:30 in the morning.  When I was in a bed I usually wasn’t awake until 8:00.  I haven’t pulled any all nighters in a month.  I think part of my stability comes from more consistent sleep.  I know problems are coming when my sleep patterns change, especially when I get less sleep.

Traditionally late summers have always been tough for me.  I usually start feeling more irritable than usual in early July.  Usually it builds until I have a break in late summer, often in late August to early September.  Both times I went to a mental hospital I went in early September.  I have always been anxious, short tempered, and irritable from late July to mid September.  I don’t know if it’s because of the heat or if I subconsciously have bad memories of going back to school.

Last year I had a mini breakdown in early July but got through August without much problem.  The major break last year came in early October.  I also sometimes have a breakdown a few days before Christmas.  The holidays are traditionally an overwhelming and stressful time. I intentionally avoid malls and box stores in November and December.  I can’t stand the sensory overload from the decorations, bell ringers, and piped in Christmas music.  I have had to skip Thanksgiving at least twice in recent years.

I am not sure why traditionally happy times always make me depressed, sad, and irritable.  Maybe because I don’t like being told how to feel or think even on a good day.  I didn’t even like teachers telling me what to think in grade school.  Perhaps I have too strong of an independent streak.  I have never been capable of just gone along to get along. That has caused me a great deal of grief over the years.  It has caused me lots of problems in school and the workplace.  I never understood why people accept things they know to be questionable, senseless, and wrong.  I have never been able to accept something I believe to be senseless or false.  That alone has gotten me labeled a malcontent and having a bad attitude.  But I am simply unable to shut down my mind and just be an obedient sheep.  I’m sure I was quite a headache to some of my teachers, bosses, and parents when I was growing up.  I just had to know why things were done as they were.  I was that precocious child who was always asking ‘why’, even with complete strangers.  But somebody has to keep asking questions and challenging the status quo.  And I guess that I am one of those somebodies.

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.

Highs and Lows of Losing Weight With Mental Illness

I’ve been working on losing weight since spring of 2014.  In that time I’ve lost at least 70 pounds.  But I’ve hit a plateau lately where it seems like nothing I do is making the weight go even lower.  It’s essentially ground to a halt for the last two to three months.  I still exercise at least 5 to 6 days a week.  I still lift weights 3 days a week.  I still track what I eat.  I’m cutting how much I eat to even less than what I ate during the winter.  Yet, oddly, I still haven’t lost hardly any weight since the end of winter.  And I’m more active now than I was in the winter months.  I know what I’m doing is right and has worked in the past.  But, it is taxing to not see much in the way of results.

I am a numbers man to the point everyone I’ve met considers me a statistics and measurements geek.  Which is odd considering how bad I struggled in high school calculus.  I really go by what I can see, what I can measure, what I can quantify, and not much on how I feel.  Yes, I feel so much better now than I did this time one year ago.  But I look at all the medical statistics and facts that state, considering my weight, age, and body build, I am severely out of shape even after dropping 75 pounds.  I haven’t seen my general practice doctor since I started losing weight.  Last time I saw him he pretty much told be ‘get busy losing weight or get busy dying.’  Granted, he was more tactful than that but the message got through anyway.  So I’ve been working myself senseless losing weight and tracking what I eat to the point that most people think I went overboard.  But desperate problems need drastic solutions.  I won’t die before I’m 45 as long as I have any control over it.

While I am doing what needs to be done to get back into good health, it is still frustrating to see that the results aren’t coming as quickly as they once were.  I’m sure I probably hit a plateau or a point where the body is readjusting to the new normal for me.  I know I get lost in the day to day grind, especially when the results aren’t coming like they once were.  I have to remind myself every day that I haven’t been this is the healthiest and ‘lightest’ I’ve been since 2008.  I started having problems with sleep apnea in 2007, so when I finally do break through this current reset point it probably won’t be long before I stop having problems with sleep apnea.

This also isn’t the first reset point I’ve had in this project.  I had my first reset last autumn after having lost 45 pounds.  And that reset took over two months.  It should be noted, especially for myself, that exercise and the human body are more like chemistry sets and less like math problems.  In a chemistry set reactions happen often slowly or not at all until a given threshold or tipping point is crossed.  It isn’t just as simple as eliminate ‘x’ number of calories or burn ‘y’ number of calories in exercise.  The human body has built in survival processes that kick in if the calories or activity it was getting changes for long enough periods of time.  This worked well for most of the human experience as food sources weren’t secure and physical activity was part of every day existence.  Those age old processes are what make weight loss tough, but fortunately we can see this and compensate for our biology.  It takes daily work and it takes a lot of time.  Time is what I have in abundance as I’m semi retired at this point in time.  I’m just going to keep doing what I have been and I’ll break through this reset.  It’s just a matter of when.

Sleep Problems And Mental Illness

One of the early warning cues to future mental health problems is changes in sleep patterns.  I’ve been sleeping only five to six hours a night for the last two weeks.  I usually average eight hours a night.  Usually when I sleep too little, eventually I’ll have problems with irritability and anxiety.  When I sleep too much I’ll have problems with depression and lethargy.

While not needing much sleep usually allows me to be more productive, it comes at a price.  In time I’ll become more anxious and easily angered.  After dealing with mental illness problems for almost twenty years, I’ve come to recognize long term trends and problems before they arise.  One way I’m trying to get back into a more even sleep pattern is reducing caffeine.  This is a tough one for me as I love both coffee and black tea.  I also won’t eat at least four hours before bed because, for me, eating anything gives me a boost and makes me stay awake later.

But this time it isn’t the late nights that are the issue.  It’s the early starting mornings.  I have literally been awake before sunrise probably all but two days in the last two weeks.  Not sure what to make of this.  I’m thinking it’s possible that all these years I was convinced I was a night owl was really my caffeine addiction talking.  If I was smarter, I’d go a couple days without any caffeine and see if that resets my sleep patterns.

In short, my sleep patterns have been heavily slanted to not getting much sleep lately.  I can tell it’s starting to take it’s toll.  I’ve been slightly more irritable, anxious, and more short tempered than usual.  It’s time to change this trend before it leads to more serious issues.