Psych Appointment and Mid Winter Thaw

Had a psychiatric appointment this morning.  I’ve been having my ups and my downs this winter like I always do. The voices aren’t as bad most times now but they do come creeping back in at times.  It’s irritating to think that after fifteen years of working with this mental illness I still have problems with being agitated by the voices.  But even they aren’t as overwhelming as they once were.

The highs are better and the lows are not as bad as they once were.  Even my really bad times don’t last as long.  Used to be I’d have entire days that were awful.  Now it usually lasts only a couple hours at most.  Haven’t lost weight this winter but I haven’t gained any since winter really started.  My blood pressure is better.  I guess if I have to struggle losing weight then I have to relax and drop the blood pressure.

Since winter has started I’ve read at least three regular books and several audiobooks via youtube.  I’ve also gotten back into poetry writing.  It had been a couple years since I was serious about that.  I know I’ll never make money from poetry but it is a good writing exercise for days I don’t blog.  Haven’t been out and about as much this winter as previous winters because of the increased snow and ice.  Times like this winter sometimes make me miss having a job to get me out of the apartment a few hours a day.

We’ve had a few decent weather days lately.  It’s our first real mid winter thaw and we’re only four weeks from the start of spring.  It seems we traditionally had several days in a row above freezing, usually in late January.  Where I live we didn’t have that until this week, the third week of February.  I actually don’t get depressed by being inside all the time in the winter.  I use the time indoors to read and catch up on writing.  I may be lazy about exercise in the winter (more so than I would like), but days like today are a reminder that spring is only a few weeks away.  That alone is often enough to make me hopeful.

 

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Stability With A Mental Illness

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Had my last chiropractic session a couple days ago.  I’m now released from regular treatments.  And my back feels even better than before my car accident in October.  Had a chronic ache in my tail bone from an injury in high school I never got treated.  Thought it was something I would just have to live with.  But with the regular chiropractic treatments out of the way for good, I now have a little more stability in my life with mental illness.

It’s been a month since the end of the holidays.  Things have settled down into a stable routine for me.  I enjoy the winter months because this is usually when I get a lot of reading and writing done.  I’m also far more sensitive to heat than cold.  And I don’t have to feel like I need to be doing something or going somewhere in winter, especially if the weather isn’t good.  It’s just easier for me to stay in for a couple days in winter if I feel like it.

In this routine I’ve actually gotten quite a bit done.  Been blogging more than usual.  Been reading a lot again.  And I’ve felt quite stable mentally.  Haven’t felt any real mental stability for any true length of time since probably last June.  I’m glad to have the stability back.  Almost forgot how good stability and the mundane can feel.

 

 

 

 

Long, Drawn Out Winter Days and Mental Illness

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No we don’t usually get to see the Northern Lights in Nebraska, but this is a cool picture anyway. Where I live we are in the middle of winter.  Been a typical cold winter.  Haven’t had any major snow storms but have had several small snows.  Haven’t gone anywhere for the last few days because of the ice and cold.  It gets dark by 6pm and doesn’t get light out until around 8am this time of year.  So I have long, drawn out nights to just sit and be anxious.  To try to ward this off I usually walk in the hallways for about 15 to 20 minutes every night, usually around 10 or 11 pm.  If I go too early, I’ll be dodging too many people to get a good walk in.  It’s too bad my apartment complex doesn’t have a small exercise room or even a treadmill in the community room.  Stuff like this would run a high risk of being vandalized in here.  I’ve seen just about everything come up missing in this complex.  People have stolen even house plants and door mats.  I’d have tenants trying to pirate my wireless internet if it wasn’t a private, password protected network.

If I sound a bit irritable it’s only because I’ve been home bound for a few days.  I admit to drinking too much coffee on cold days to warm myself up.  Not only am I on a caffeine crash, I’m also a little bored by being inside.  In America we have a slang term called “cabin fever.”  This merely means that a person is getting irritable and anxious from being forced to be inside most of the time, usually during the winter.  I imagine it was an old pioneer and homesteader term.  While we have only a few inches of snow on the ground, the ice is still pretty bad.  I saw two tenants slip in the parking lot just today.

But I did get to spend a little time outdoors just last night.  We had a good snow last night with almost no wind (a rarity in Nebraska where we usually have wind almost all the time in winter).  Just sat outside and watched the snow for an hour.  May not sound like much but with a mental illness even the little things can bring a sense of peace and calm.

Not much going on during the winter months but short days, long nights, trying to squeeze in a few minutes of walking whenever I can, arm weights three nights a week, some youtube, and computer games.  It’s nights like this that make me look forward to the spring months of April, May, and June, my favorite times of the year.

 

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.

Weight Loss, Exercise, and Mental Health. Winter Edition

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It’s been awhile since I last reported on my ongoing project of losing weight, maintaining mental equilibrium, and working on improving myself overall.  For awhile, from late October through most of November, I wasn’t losing nor gaining weight.  In early December, I had a flare up of the symptoms of schizophrenia and I had a second day of flare ups in mid January.  I met with my psych nurse, readjusted some of my meds, and found out that I had lost 10 pounds since late November.  I’m now down 65 pounds overall.  We had a fairly cold, but dry, December and first half of January.  I wasn’t exercising outdoors much, having moved my routines indoors.  I added small arm weights to my routine an average of twice a week.  I have found if I stretch before and after lifting, I don’t really feel sore the morning after lifting.  I had heard that some football coaches were doing this stretching after practices and games and they were seeing less pulled muscle problems in their players.  I gave it a try and it seems to work.  I still won’t work the same muscles two days in a row no matter how good they feel.

Another indoor exercise I do is just putting on dance music on my iPod, throw on the headphones, and dance to the tunes for about thirty minutes at a time.  I do this usually three days a week on average.  Since I live in a top floor apartment with squeaky floors, I do have to be care where and when I do this.  If I do this at night, I usually have to dance in my living room or kitchen.  No reason to wake up my downstairs neighbors if I do this at 9pm or later.

Even when I walked outdoors during the summer and fall, I did usually thirty minutes per day probably four to five days per week.  I made it a point to have at least one day a week off from exercise entirely, just for recuperating and breaking up the routine mentally.  I didn’t start out walking thirty minutes per day.  When I started this ‘life style overhaul’ I could walk only 1/4 of a mile in one shot without sitting down.  Pretty sad I had let myself slide so bad.  And yes, it was my fault.  I used the idea that my psych meds were promoting my weight gain and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Yes I could do something about it.  I had to reexamine everything I was doing.  I needed to know exactly what I was eating, what I was doing for exercise, how much water I was drinking, and how much I was sleeping.  After looking everything over, I saw what I was doing poorly (almost everything), and had to adjust accordingly.

On March 17, 2014, I began my exercise routine and keeping my day to day health journal. When most people in my hometown were doing the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (I live in a college town after all), I was doing a different type of crawl because I was sore from my first day of exercise.  I had been sedentary all winter, slept probably 11 to 12 hours most days, so I was out of practice and I was feeling it.  But within a couple of weeks, I stretched that 1/4 mile to 1/3 of a mile.  Within six weeks of beginning, I was doing at least 2/3 of a mile.  By the middle of June I was easily doing one mile without stopping. When Labor Day rolled around I could walk for one hour at a time but I was slightly sore for the next day, but it wasn’t the kind of pain crawl I was doing in March.  By the first of October I found out I was down 50 pounds overall.  The day after Halloween, I was down 55 pounds overall and, unknown to me at the time, I came to my first ‘plateau’.  I went through at least a six week period when I didn’t lose or gain.  I had heard about the possibility of having one of these periods.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that after 55 pounds lost, my body would go through a while of resetting itself.

The human body is quite amazing in that it regulates itself and is very adaptable.  I imagine my body might have thought it was experiencing a period of calorie shortages and was hording as much energy as it could.  Remember, that for most of human history, a person didn’t always have a consistent food supply.  There were the proverbial times of feasts and famines.  So the body adapted to become stingy with it’s on hand calories and to crave sources of easy calories like carbs, sugars, and proteins.  It is only within the last few generations we’ve had such strong food security with so little effort.  And, in western countries like USA, we’re doing this with probably only one percent of the work force actually working in farming and food production.

I’m dead convinced that one of the reasons for such tragic rates of obesity (and I needed to and still need to listen to this as much as anyone) in western nations was that we kept the eating habits our great grandparents had but did only a fraction of the physical labor.  In my own family, as far as I can tell, our entire family worked in farming, sharecropping, etc. as far back as we can trace.  My parents were the first generation of their families to either not grow up on a farm or not work on one.  I tell this aside simply to state many people have lost contact with how much time and work it really takes to grow crops, raise farm animals, hunt, fish, and gather wild food.  So we often eat food, and waste it, with little appreciation of how much work it took to get it from farm to dining room table.  And, as we’ve gone from a farming and manufacturing based economy to a knowledge based and service economy, we are seeing the foolishness of keeping the same eating habits without the corresponding physical activity.  Either the physical activity has to increase, the food consumption has to decline, or ideally both happens.  We saw the bad effects of smoking and excessing alcohol consumption and adjusted accordingly, starting about forty years ago.  I believe we’re now starting to make adjustments as a society to the problems of obesity and associated sicknesses.  Had I not taken steps to address my problems with obesity and physical health problems, then no amount of mental health successes were going to matter.

Sure I still have flare ups of mental illness problems even with as much weight I’ve lost.  I’ll probably be fighting mental illness issues for a long time, barring some major medical breakthroughs in the treatment of brain issues.  I do have hope that major breakthroughs will be happening, especially when I think that there are teams of scientists, researchers, engineers, etc. all over the world just thinking about how to improve what we have and just dreaming up entirely new ways to do things.  Theses are quite exciting times we live in, especially for those of us who pay attention to technology breakthroughs.  A good site I stumbled on that details breakthroughs we as a species have done since 2000 and projected new breakthroughs for many decades to come is futuretimeline.net.  There have to be literally dozens of sites such as this detailing tech breakthroughs.  I often lose sight of the big picture during days of struggle.  We do live in exciting times though challenging times.  But with challenges come opportunities.  Who knows what advances in the treatment of all illness, let alone mental illness, the next few decades and years will bring?