May Is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US

May is Mental Health Awareness month at least in the US. What would you most like to see addressed with respect to mental illness in the next 5 years? Here’s my list:

  1. Find a way to describe people who are dangerous with an underlying mental condition as different from the bulk of people with mental illness who are generally not dangerous or are dangerous to ourselves. In other words, find a way to differentiate mass shooters from people in mental anguish who often suffer at their own expense rather than at others’. Find new and working vocabulary words to mark this distinction.
  2. Address mental illness stigma to where viable support may be readily given in the workplace, the place of worship, the neighborhood or within other community settings.
  3. Develop meds that don’t cause weight gain or other side effects like Type II Diabetes.
  4. Oh I am adding one – be sure first responders are trained to deal with mental illness particularly campus police as college is a time when many mental illnesses present. What’s your list?

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Clothing then and now (reposted)

As a note before this repost, I have successfully maneuvered getting 10 to 13 pounds off (and stayed off) in the last several months. This has largely been due to introducing daily exercise into my day – walking and/or yoga. This is the first time I have been able to stick to such a routine in 17 years. Oddly, my evening snacking has not made the weight gain disappear but it does tell me that I could get another 7 to 10 pounds off if I could just stop the snacking / stress eating in the evening after dinner. The repost is below:

I have continued to have some sort of fixation with clothes and clothing – not only the color in which they appear but also the “privacy” of the label.  Sometimes this label is not private and is emblazoned on the back pocket of the jeans as in Calvin Klein jeans from the 1970’s or even the Levi’s name tag on that ever so timeless brand of clothing.  I am unsure what this fixation on clothing entails exactly.  I do know that it is tied with some body image issues that get complicated because of my need to take regular meds for my bipolar condition. 

Throughout high school and college I remained a size 6 to 8 when I perhaps should have been a size ten.  After meds were introduced in my life I was almost always a size 8 to 10.  After bearing a child and substantially increasing my meds, I have been more a size 12 to 14.  My goal at this juncture in life is to be back at that size 12.  Perhaps my obsession with clothing is in parallel to my own body image issues, perhaps not. 

In any case, the preoccupation with clothing seems to have something also to so with pattern recognition.  If four people out of ten wear red to the office that day, I notice it.   If black was worn by person A on day one and by persons B, C, D, and E, I notice it. Not that I really ever did anything with the information, it was just a layer of the type of perceptions I would have – extraneous and meaningless maybe or maybe not.  Definitely with a focus on color patterns and patterning.

In my teens, I spent hours shopping for the right clothing.  Today, I abhor shopping for clothes largely because I am two sizes bigger than I would like to be.  The preoccupation with clothes at an early age is probably all wrapped up in image.  I have very little to say in that regard today as Ego is largely drained from my daily events.  I tend today to wear the same make of clothes all the time and often repeat the same outfit once a week.  In fact, I do not care about clothing at all.  It is a chore to buy clothes and it is a chore to pick out clothes for any given day.

While being diagnosed with an eating disorder is something I have considered as relevant to my mental health, I feel that my weight gain issues center more on body image issues and medication use.  For years, I bought into the fashion magazine mindset that you were not beautiful unless you were a size 6 or size 8.  For years throughout high school and college and into my twenties, I ate and exercised in order to maintain a size 6 or a size 8 figure.  Often this meant running three to five miles several times a week and counting caloric intake to be about 1000 calories a day.  When I became pregnant at age 38 I was about a size ten. After giving birth to my daughter, I have stayed at a size twelve if not a size fourteen.  I currently have very little discipline in the food and exercise realm largely in my own view because I feel I am reacting to years of over-exercising and over-dieting. 

So it is that my size in clothes has moved from a size 6 in high school to a size 14 in married life and after child-birth.  This continues to be a goal of mine to return again to size 12 through a combination of exercise and food monitoring.  However, it is something admittedly that until quite recently has fallen off the radar screen.  Some of this frustration and back-pedaling about eating and exercise may include the fact that meds are often associated with weight gain.  In my mind, I tell myself it is better to have an extra twenty pounds on while taking medicine than it is to be a at a model’s weight with little or no mental stability.  This is particularly true when I start to be honest with myself that fasting from breakfast time through lunchtime is associated with mood issues since blood sugar levels are not being addressed.

If I can do it, you can do it!

I recently have gotten back into a physical exercise regime, what I have not done for about 15 to 18 years. I have been keeping a log of my walks and my yoga. So far it has been five weeks since I started. I have kept the log each day and include any comments like what yoga positions were difficult (code for I could not complete….) or whether the walk was long or short. I also include a day of rest each week.

In my prior life, I was an exercise fanatic, sometimes going on runs twice a day. Later after running I was an aerobics enthusiast and actually taught classes in college and later after I graduated in clubs. Later in life but still before meeting my husband, I was a self-taught dancer. I always considered myself to be very fit, but after my lovely daughter was born, I slipped into a not-so-fit lifestyle. I gave up on exercise and succumbed to the idea that meds cause weight gain.

I also succumbed to stress eating and snacking particularly at night before bed. This is not good for weight control and not so good for being at risk for Type II diabetes either.

I share my recent success with getting into a yoga and walk routine because I am proud to say this is the longest duration in forever that I have kept up such an exercise regime. I also want you to know that if you are on the fence about exercising, motivation can happen for you! If it happened for me, it can surely happen for you, too!

I am also proud to report that I have lost ten pounds and have kept it off over the last two to three months. I still am having my evening treat which I hope soon to discontinue or to substitute with a price of fruit. While ten pounds off is a good initial accomplishment for me, I would like to update that goal with an additional ten pounds more to lose. We’ll see if that’s doable.

Although I have known about the connection between exercise and stress management all my life, I still have been somehow unwilling to get back into the routine of things. This last month has reminded me how crucial exercise is to helping with mental health — especially anxiety management which is one of my biggest challenges.

I keep a basic log in WORD and write down a daily account of my walks and my yoga. I write down what was particularly difficult in yoga and what I did as an alternative pose. There is no room for judgement or for feeling bad if I cannot do a certain pose. I simply do what I can and modify the pose if it is too difficult for me. Whether I complete the class doing all the work or some of the work, I still benefit from a good bit of stress and anxiety reduction.

Anyway, I wanted to share my start back to a successful exercise schedule. Hopefully this will help keep me motivated. Also, I hope if you too are experiencing trouble getting going in this area, you will use the idea of my simple log to help you start your version of the same sort of regimen.

What about weight gain? Anybody experiencing that?

Asking about memory issues is popular on my blog, so I thought I would start a similar discussion on weight gain.

Back in 1985 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was prescribed a combination of lithium and tegretol. There was a five to ten pound weight gain associated with those meds. With a diligence for exercise I managed the weight implications associated with lithium without a problem. As long as I stayed on lithium off and on until about 2004 my weight seemed largely manageable.

Fast forward to 2004 after the birth of my daughter. I never got off my baby weight. Also due to the postpartum depression, I suffered additional weight gain in that I ceased to be motivated to run 4 to 5 times a week. In fact, I am doing well now to get a short walk in.

In 2008, I was prescribed clozapine / clozaril which largely became therapuetic for me but also was associated with a good bit of weight gain. To this day I am 20 to 30 pounds heavier than I want to be. I also want to be walking regularly. In addition to the meds’ impact on weight, I began to eat as a nervous eater and a stress eater. This did not help with the weight issues.

I am hopeful if I can jumpstart myself back into an exercise regime, I can begin to address the weight-gain and the stress eating. Because my daughter is pescatarian we largely eat healthily as a family but portions are too large and snacking is too much.