Saw my psych doctor a few days ago. We agreed that a change in medications is in order. Neither one of us think the meds I was on for the last two years are as effective as they once were. He had me do a DNA cheek swab to be tested to see what medications would be effective given my DNA. The results will be in probably by the time I see him again in two weeks. The tests may not be perfect but they should give us a better idea of what will and won’t work. But these tests weren’t even around when I was diagnosed fifteen years ago. For most of my illness we were merely throwing darts in the dark hoping to hit on something that would work. We were just guessing, especially in the first year. For now I am starting the process of switching back to one of my previous medications. I was on that med for several years but wanted to switch because it was known to promote weight gain. But it sure was effective. It’s too bad I let the side effects sabotage my previous attempts at weight loss. Looking back, I think I used the side effect as an excuse not to be serious about my health.
In spite my recent mental health problems I managed to lose over twelve pounds in the first month of tracking my eating and exercising. I’m seeing now that keeping track of what I eat is the difference between losing weight and gaining weight. I was simply unaware of how much I really ate when I wasn’t tracking. I am one of these people who would sometime eat just out of boredom. But that has changed. For my diet I cook almost all of my meals and I severely limit carbs. I don’t even keep bread in the apartment anymore, haven’t for almost six months. The weight loss has been the bright spot of this last month. And I haven’t been crazy about my exercising. I usually just walk twenty minutes a day probably five or six days a week. I intend to keep this up even while changing medications.
Anyone who knows about living with a mental illness is aware that what is normal for us is beyond the grasp of the unaffected. Excessive anxiety, unshakeable fears, crippling depression, and bouts of unreasonable anger are scary for anyone without a diagnosis when they see us acting this way. For us, it’s just another day at the office. Yet there are times when things are going better than normal for us. Mental illness isn’t just day after tormenting day of bleakness and horror. There are times when we are doing alright, in fact almost indistinguishable from the normal who don’t have such problems.
These last several weeks have been such times when things have gone well. I’ve gotten out and socialized more the last two weeks than the previous four months. I have been avoiding my neighbors in my low income apartment complex by in large for the last several months. Seems like my neighbors (everybody in our 50 unit complex is my neighbor as there seems to be little privacy) had been in more foul moods than normal. It didn’t help that my three closest friends in here died in late 2014 to early 2015. These were good, witty men who were pleasant to chat with. After those three died, it seemed that we got a bunch of new tenants who were just in lousy moods all the time. And as we live in tight quarters already, that kind of poison infects other people who in turn put other people in foul moods. We have also had a rash of thefts in our complex the last several months. Unfortunately, living in low income housing, who we get for new tenants can be hit or miss. Lately we have gotten some cranks, jerks, gossips, and other assorted nonsense. Finally I decided to quit hiding out in my apartment and just made it a point to avoid the losers and mingle with the sane and cool tenants we still have. I didn’t even go to last year’s Christmas party because I didn’t want to have my holidays spoiled by toxic people. But I just had to get out of my apartment more. It gets too easy to hide out in winter when there’s too much snow and ice to really do anything. I no longer want mean and stupid people dictating the terms of my life. I refuse to feel like a prisoner in my own home.
I got to see my niece and nephews last week. They had a few days off from school and came up to see the grandparents. We cooked hot dogs over an open fire and I played magnetic darts with the kids. Found out the oldest, who’s going into middle school this fall, is joining the school band and taking classes in robotics. I am thrilled about both, especially about the robotics classes. My brother’s kids are always taking apart electronics and seeing how they work and how to put them back together again. When I went to school in the 1990s, computers classes weren’t even required after sixth grade. We had maybe a couple computers classes offered as electives but nothing like ‘one hour a day of coding’ that some places do now. Pretty much everything I learned about computers I either learned on my own or from some of my more adventurous friends. I would have loved to been able to take things apart and tried to put them back together or just trial and error computers as a kid. I’m glad my brother’s kids are being encouraged to do these new things and learn from their mistakes. All three of the kids in school are also in advanced classes and gifted programs. My brother and I would have been in such programs but my school didn’t offer those programs years ago. So I got to see my nephews and niece and got to hear about the projects they have going. I hope they continue to do well.
I have also been tracking my eating and exercise for three weeks now. I’ve lost almost ten pounds in those three weeks. Besides keeping track of everything I eat and shutting myself off for the day once I come close to a preset calorie limit, I am not doing anything crazy or fadish. I don’t even restrict anything, just how much I eat. If I want pizza, I go to the neighborhood pizzeria and buy a couple slices and that itch is scratched for a few days. If I want a cheeseburger, I hoof it over to the McDonalds and buy a cheeseburger or two. But I also keep track of what I eat throughout the day. Yes it means updating a few times a day. Yes it means being anal retentive about keeping records and watching calories. But, it works for me. The previous several months when I wasn’t tracking and gaining weight despite my exercising, I was no doubt eating more than I thought. I don’t do that now. I have lost close to ten pounds in three weeks and I didn’t even have to strain myself exercise wise. I usually do only fifteen to twenty minutes a day but I do it everyday. I suppose I could try to push harder on exercise but why burn yourself out one day and be forced to take the next day off? That makes no sense. What I am currently doing is starting to work again. And it will continue to work as long as I keep following the setup I have figured out after years of trial and error.
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.