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.

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Fifteen Years With A Mental Illness Diagnosis

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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.

No News Is Often Good News With A Mental Illness

Things have been quiet for me in regards to my schizophrenia for the last several weeks.  Spring and early summer have traditionally been the best times of year for me.  This year is no exception.  Still exercising six days a week on average.  I’m still getting out of the apartment and going to the parks or the mall to people watch and be out and about more days than not.  Haven’t had any real problems with depression, anxiety, or agitation for at least a couple months.  Haven’t really been anywhere besides visiting family for several months.  It’s been a stable and drama free go for a long time.

I can attribute this stretch of no news to a few things.  For one, I’ve learned over fifteen years with a diagnosis what causes problems and how to avoid them.  I traditionally haven’t done well in large crowds and fast paced environments.  So I usually do most of my shopping errands in the early morning or late night to avoid crowds.  I typically avoid driving during high traffic times.  I couldn’t get away with this living in a large metroplex.  But there are some advantages to living in smaller towns for those with mental illness, less stress and slower pace being among those.

While I don’t tell complete strangers I have a mental illness, I have found there is less stigma and less uneasiness when I do discuss it with others then there was fifteen years ago.  When I was in college I never told anyone outside of a few close friends I had a mental illness.  But seems that people are not as ill at ease as they once were.  As stress and anxiety become bigger issues afflicting more people, the stigmas of mental illness will break down even faster.

I’ve never been one that thrived on drama and instability in my personal or work life.  It’s been pretty uneventful with my mental illness for quite some time.  And I’m liking it just fine.  No news is often good news, especially with a mental illness.

Losing Weight While On Anti-Psych Meds 2

One of the most common side effects of taking antidepressants  and anti-psych medications is weight gain.  I myself was no exception to this.  But now that trend has been  reversed.  I’ve been working on becoming more active and tracking what I eat since the middle of March 2014.  As of early November 2014, I have lost over 55 pounds in this time.

I suppose I ought to go into some of the background of this.  In August 2013, it became obvious to me I could not keep going as I was.  So I hastily started out trying to lose weight.  But I didn’t actually keep track of what I ate, was inconsistent about exercise, and tried to follow a plan that I didn’t specifically tailor to my personal likes and tendencies.  That first attempt at losing weight failed.  I had to take some time, figure out why it didn’t work, and adjust accordingly.  That’s how I spent much of December 2013 and January 2014.

I also talked to my psych nurse about my intentions of losing weight.  He and I agreed to switch to two newer medications that didn’t have as much of a tendency to promote weight gain as my previous two medications.  It was tough to change medications that had worked well on the mental side of my health.  Yet, both my psych nurse and I thought that a wrecked physical health would only ruin my mental health eventually.  The change over was a rather slow process that took most of January 2014, all of February and March 2014.  It was, as time would show, a change over that was worth it.

Once the weather started to warm up in late March, I made it a point to walk outside for at least 10 minutes per day.  That doesn’t sound like much but it was a start to developing good habits.  From those beginnings I am now able to do 35 to 40 minutes of physical activity five days per week.  I make it a point to take at least one day per week off from exercise merely to allow my body to recover and break up the routine some.

I also track everything that I eat.  I do this through a free tracking profile I have on webmd.com.  All I had to have to sign up for this was a valid email address.  The profile I have tracks calories eaten as well as calories burned through exercises.  Another site I used to get some good ideas was trimdownclub.com.  It does cost some money through a one time fee.  I have looked around online and there are numerous apps that track calories used, calories eaten, etc., and many of these are free apps.  I just track everything through my laptop computer as I don’t own a smartphone.

Once I decided I wanted to lose weight, learned my tendencies and how to work accordingly, changed my anti-psych meds to some with less side effects, began building my psychical stamina slowly, tracking everything I eat as well as my exercise, stopped making excuses as to why I couldn’t get healthier, and even quit punishing myself for those inevitable days where I backslide, it became just a matter of running my tailor made program and doing the work.  I also do not weigh myself daily.  I usually only weigh every four weeks.  I do this so as to not get discouraged if the numbers aren’t changing on a day to day basis.  I also do not go only by what the numbers on the scale are, I also go off how I personally feel.

I also do not follow any one program completely.  I’ve taken advice from many sources, such as Weight Watchers, Trim Down Club, Glycemic Index diets, Paleo diets, as well as my personal preferences.  It took several months of research and looking at my own tendencies before I started losing weight to figure out something I thought would work for my personal circumstances.  I certainly couldn’t afford some diets or much organic foods as I’m living off Social Security Disability Insurance at the moment.  But the facts are I am losing weight while on anti-psych medications and working in the constraints of a very limited budget.  It can be done but it does take facing the truth about yourself and knowing your tendencies.  Something like this, for the results to last, has to be a complete lifestyle change.

What Mental Illness Means For Me

I have occasionally been asked to describe what exactly what having a mental illness is like.  Now I don’t get as annoyed with such questions as I used to.  I mean, it is an honest question by people who, for the most part care.  Yet, I am still at a loss to describe my mental illness in a ten to fifteen second sound bite.  I haven’t always been mentally ill, so I can still remember from my childhood and teenage years what it was like not to have to deal with the crippling depression,chronic anxiety, delusions that seem so real (even when I try to convince myself they aren’t), hallucinations that, left unchecked, can be overwhelming by themselves, among other maladies that are associated with paranoid schizoprenia.

The crippling depression can, at times, leave me such that I literally don’t have the motivation to do much of anything.  During the times of depression, I will often alternate between times of intense sadness and intense anger.  I will usually try to isolate myself from physical contact with others during these times.  It’s nothing personal, I just don’t want to have the risk of a confrontation with anyone at these times.  I still can communicate with friends, family, counselors, support people, etc. by means of phone, e-mail, etc. but I don’t risk much personal contact with anyone during these times.  I certainly won’t be driving on the road during such episodes.  Far too risky.

Anxiety is another issue.  In my case, anxiety makes it impossible to hold most kinds of work.  I have tried and failed at several types of jobs, ranging from salesman to factory worker to maintenance man to graduate assistant.  I’ve really lost count of how many jobs I’ve held over the years.  I really have a hard time handling fast paced work where the public is involved.  So that alone eliminates many jobs.  The only job I held for longer than one year was a janitorial job where I primarily worked alone, could set my own priorities within limits, and I wasn’t bothered as long as the job was done well and on time.  Another issue about anxiety and mental illness is old fashioned office politics.  I never could figure those out.  Because of my anxiety, along with my paranoia, I often thought my coworkers and bosses were out to nail me.  Throw in depression about the whole deal and it meant for unpleasent work experiences all around.

The depression and anxiety doesn’t just effect my working life.  It also effects whatever social life I have.  My social life anymore consists of a few really close friends, some casual acquaintances, and my family.  I don’t have any friends from my previous jobs as I’ve lost contact with all of them (or wasn’t at the job long enough to make friends).  I haven’t dated in seven years.  The idea of going out on even a casual date scares me bad.  I just don’t know how to bring up the whole ‘I have a mental illness’ without scaring off a potential date.  There are times that complete solitude is overrated.

I have covered only part of what mental illness means to me.  I’ll have to cover the rest in a future post.