Adapting To Winter with Mental Illness

Some people think I’m strange in that I prefer cold weather to warm weather.  Besides spring, winter is usually the best time of year for me.  While Christmas might not mean much to me personally anymore, I do enjoy seeing the excitement and joy on my nephews and niece’s faces.  I enjoy spending time with family more than I do getting gifts anymore.

The weather has certainly turned quite cold since Thanksgiving.  It doesn’t really bother me as I have plenty of books to read, food in my pantry, good internet connection, and I can call up friends and family pretty much anytime.  I probably would feel different if I lived in the Old West as a mountain man who had to cut his own firewood and go hunting all the time.  Since the weather has turned colder and the nights are getting longer, I have been sleeping more.  I’m not sleeping out of depression or sadness but I just like getting under the heavy blanket and semi hibernating.

Been reading quite a bit lately.  I’m reading mostly non fiction and science books lately.  Reading science and tech books, even ones that are a few years old, made me realize just how fast things are changing.  And most people don’t even know these changes are happening.  I currently have a several year old Play Station 3 but the next gaming consul I buy will probably have some Virtual Reality setup.  I imagine the Oculus Rift is a popular Christmas gift this year.  I’m probably going to wait a couple years and let the prices come down before I get one of my own.

Since it looks like it’s supposed to stay cold for the next several days I think I’m pretty much going to stay home.  I have a few projects around the apartment that I want to get on top of.  Been kind of lazy about some things as I was fighting bouts of depression and anxiety all fall.  I’m probably going to rearrange my apartment.  As I don’t have a lot of furniture this won’t take more than an hour or two at most.

One advantage to the colder weather is that I’m much less apt to go for fast food.  I’ve been eating healthier the last several days and I notice an improvement already in my moods and energy level.  Sometimes in the afternoons I’ll walk the hallways of my complex just to break up the routines on these cold days.

I’m back on my normal meds doses.  I had to increase all my meds during the fall because of my problems with stress, depression, and anxiety.  But as I’ve felt much more stable the last few weeks I was able to come down off the high doses I was on.

All in all I’m beginning to settle into my winter routines.  I have plenty of books I want to get read this winter and I’m already off to a good start on those.

 

Plans For Spring

 

Looking at my calendar I see that there’s less than one month until the start of Spring.  Looking out my window, I see that almost all the snow we had three weeks ago is gone and the trees are showing buds.  I also heard several flocks of Canadian Geese overhead during the last few days.  We’ve had nicer than usual weather the last several days, giving us a teaser for the spring.  Even preseason baseball practice has started.  I’m thinking it’s going to be another long year for my Colorado Rockies but since the Kansas City Royals put together some excellent teams the last couple years, it has me thinking it’s possible.  But hope springs with all the possibilities of the upcoming Spring.

Now that I’ve stabilized after the problems of the fall and the holiday season, I think that getting out of the apartment complex more is in order.  There is a cool museum in one of the nearby towns that I haven’t been to for a few years.  It’s called Pioneer Village.  Pretty cool place with a lot of antique cars, toys, nick nacks, and a full scale 1880s frontier town in the complex.  I think almost every school kid in Nebraska has made a field trip to this place.  Pioneer Village is definitely a must for any visitor to Nebraska.

Another must is the bird migrations that go on in late February and March.  Every spring thousands of Canadian Geese, Sandhills Cranes, and other migrating birds come.  The fields along the Platte River, particularly along Interstate 80, are so covered with birds the fields are white with them.  They are especially thick the first two weeks of March.  Some places along the Platte River offer guided tours that draw bird watchers from all over the country.  I probably won’t be paying for any tours. I’ll just go a few miles outside of town and check out any field near the river.  Last year I was lucky enough to see several large flocks of geese take off.  Mornings are usually best for viewing the migrating birds, but evenings are pretty good too.

I’m also planning on being at the family acreage this spring.  I haven’t been there since late October.  From what I heard the place wintered well.  A mother cat had several kittens they made it through the winter.  Dad is talking about building solar panels for the cabin.  Since I’ve helped him build a couple cabins and renovate his rental house over the last several years, I’ll help him on this project.  I got pretty decent at using power tools, saws, and wood working.  But I never got very good with electrical work.  This may be a chance to pick that skill up.

I’m going to exercise outdoors as the weather warms.  I’ve been limited to walking indoors and arm weights three times a week since late November. Haven’t gained any weight in the last month, so I’ve stopped the weight gain.  Now the weather is going to warm soon I’ll start losing again.  I should have known that losing weight last winter wasn’t normal unless you have good exercise equipment at home.  Yesterday was the first time I exercised outdoors for any real length in a month.  That large blizzard we had at the beginning of the month is mostly melted.  I’m looking forward to the start of spring.  I won’t be sorry when the winter ends.

 

 

Thoughts On 2015 and Looking Ahead to 2016

Another year has come to pass.  We humans have survived yet another lap around the mother star.  2015 has had, like all years, it’s ups and downs.  Some really cool stuff happened like the sending a space probe to Pluto, vertically landing a rocket (I knew I should have bought SpaceX stock several months ago), and discovering water on Mars are just a few of the highlights I can think of right off hand.  This was ‘the future year’ of Back To The Future II.  My enjoyment of the internet and wearable electronics outweigh my disappointment of not having a flying car and not having a computerized Ronald Reagan taking my order at a 1980s nostalgia restaurant.

Looking back on 2015, I accomplished most of my goals.  I set goals every year instead of resolutions.  I actually write down my goals (i.e. make at least 30 blog posts, get my amateur radio license, get rid of my clutter, etc.) and I rewrite them at the end of every month in a journal just to remind myself to keep going.  The two goals I’m most proud of are getting my Amateur radio license and having more visitors to this blog in 2015 than 2014.  The only real goal I didn’t accomplish was losing another sixty pounds.  I started off well as I lost fifteen pounds in the winter months to start 2015.  But things fell apart about late May.  Having a college buddy visit for a whole week in June when we went out to eat and hit sports bars several nights in a row didn’t help the cause.  Things got even worse after the week in the Black Hills for Matt’s wedding.  I’m not blaming my lack of staying on track with diet and exercise on my best friend but friends do sometimes get you in trouble.  But those are the friends you should hang onto.  If the worst Matt causes me to do is eat like a horse for much of a summer, well there are worse things he could have involved me in.  But he’s one of these tall guys who’s skinnier than a rail and can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce.  He’s only a few pounds heavier than when he graduated college thirteen years ago.  I simply won’t even try to keep up with guys like him anymore.  In August, my last living grandparent died.  Went through several weeks of pulling all night internet research and computer game marathons at least three nights per week.  That caused even more weight gain and mental health issues.  My car wreck in late October didn’t help the effort any as it made exercise nearly impossible as I had a few weeks of chronic back pain.  But that’s all cleared now.  It wasn’t until mid November did things return to a sense of normal.  And now I’m where I started 2015, at least weight wise.

I also decided to get somewhat more cultured in 2015.  To this end I watched a few foreign movies on Netflix.  Also watched some classic movies like Citizen Kane, some Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The only Stanley Kubrick movie I saw previously was Full Metal Jacket.  I guess my impression of 2001 was it looked like a mashup of Jane Goodall, Buckminster Fuller, and Carl Sagan on bad acid trips.  This was the sixties after all.

For 2016 goals, I want to lose at least sixty pounds.  I also want to post to this blog at least forty times.  I want to have more visitors to this blog in 2016 than 2015. I want to write poetry again as I’ve been lazy about that for two years.  I want to revive some of my older writing ideas.  In years past I wrote rough drafts for two truly lousy novels. I’m going to see if I can find those old files and dust off the cobwebs.I want to continue to save at least ten percent of my monthly pay.  I’m saving up in part because I want to take a couple good old fashioned American road trip in a few years.  I haven’t been to the East Coast before.  That is one place I want to visit.  I’d love to see autumn in New England and visit some of the old Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Sometime within the next five to seven years I’d love to visit the Deep South too.  I have a couple college friends from Alabama who are always raving about the barbecue places and good diners down there.  Here in Nebraska, we don’t really have a specialty besides steaks and prime rib.  In short I have a few goals for 2016 and beyond.

 

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.

Not Holding ‘Traditional’ Employment, Losing Weight, and Changes

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It’s been at least two and half years since I last held a traditional job of any kind.  No doubt some would argue that since I have a good amount of intelligence, I have no reason not to be doing some kind of job.  I’m sure that some look upon me with disdain because I’m on Disability Insurance for a condition that they don’t understand, let alone acknowledge it’s existence.  At this point in my life and development I don’t hold this against anyone.  I’ve come to accept, without any degree of resentment, that some aren’t going to grasp why I decided to opt out of traditional employment.

I absolutely intend to go back into the workforce at some point in the future.  But, at this point and time in my life, I believe it far more important for myself to lose weight and get back into good health before I rejoin the workforce. As of this writing, I have lost at least 60 pounds since the middle of March 2014.  I still have a long way to go before I hit my final health and weight goal.  With my body build being what it is (short legs, short arms, large body, very thick bones, and more muscled than average) I doubt I’ll be able to finish a marathon even when I make final goal.  But I can certainly be healthy even with the natural framework I have.  I think that anyone can if they make the efforts to be more conscious about what they eat, what they do for exercise, and know themselves well enough to plan around their strengths and weaknesses.

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Sadly, when I worked I wasn’t able to lose weight.  This was even with doing jobs like janitorial and factory work where I had to keep moving at all times.  Whatever I burned off from these jobs I consumed back from the course of not tracking what I ate.  I wasn’t conscious about what I ate.  Since I usually came hold tired and worn out, as a result of carrying so much weight and working physical jobs, I made no efforts to exercise when I wasn’t at my place of employment.  And thus a vicious cycle of unhealthiness, fatigue from work, and depression plus anxiety from being out of shape enough I couldn’t do what I wanted in my hours away from the job was going on during the years I held even part time employment.  Serious changes were needed to break this cycle.

After I left my last paying job, I set out to attempt to get healthier.  I read many books on dieting, exercise, nutrition, motivation, and mental health.  I also decided to take a very long and completely honest assessment of my strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies.  I liked much of what I was able to uncover (my intelligence, my ability for keeping accurate records, attention to details, ability to adapt quickly, ability to learn quickly, etc.).  I also didn’t like much of what I found about my drawbacks (tend to be discouraged in the day to day work, often not keeping attention on the larger picture, tendencies to distraction, tendencies to attempt too many projects at once, tendency to get discouraged when not able to see progress, etc.).  I decided rather than trying to improve my deficits, I would instead develop my natural strengths enough to negate my weaknesses.

I decided I wanted to lose weight in the summer of 2013.  I didn’t seriously start losing weight and getting healthier until April 2014.  That is when I started tracking everything I ate.  Just as vital, I tracked all exercises I did.  I wanted to not only know what was going in my body,  I was also interested in what I was doing too.  Over a period of a few weeks, I noticed my activity was increasing while my consumption was decreasing.  Stretch that over several months, my consumption is still decreasing and my activity is not only increasing, but is getting easier to do.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but on the day I decided without a doubt I was going to get to a set goal weight, in my case 225 pounds, on or before a set date in time, this date was March 17, 2019.  I picked March 17, 2019 only because it was exactly five years from the date when I decided I was ready to set out on the long journey to good health.

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By March 2014, I had done an inventory of my strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.  I also had a working knowledge of several different types of diet programs (such as Weight Watchers, South Beach, Paleo-Diets, Glycemic Index Diets, etc.).  I had stated, and written down, my intentions of losing weight and getting healthy by stating an exact weight I wanted to be at and gave myself a set time period to do this work.  I knew I enjoyed walking, whether it’s in a park or in the old downtown of my hometown.  So walking became a major element in my exercise program.  I also decided I would track what I ate and what exercises I did every day.  If this sounds like a lot of work, it is a lot of work.  It took almost fifteen years to get as unhealthy as I was.  I wasn’t going to get back to good health rushing into a program without doing some planning.  No one builds anything that lasts, it doesn’t matter if it’s a dog house or the new World Trade Center building in New York, without sitting down and making some plans.  Taking the time to evaluate what you have to work with and making plans accordingly is the key to any undertaking, not just getting into good health.

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