exercise

A Poem and a Few Words About Mental Health and Walking

I have often wondered if the people who get to run these machines are just older kids at play. Seeing these big machines also makes me think about modern labour and how it changes so rapidly. I often wonder what some of my students do without computer skills-what anyone without computer skills can do. It leaves us so marginalized. But that is a discussion for another day. Please remember to scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog.

 

The Forgotten Book

 

On my floor forgotten lies a book

Its cover bent all it seems to do is gather dust

The dismal hum of the summer fan

Licks its pages until it seems alive

This book once had been my hopes, my dreams

To take me places I never dared to go

This book was more than mine it was me

It was written by my hand inspired by my soul

I poured everything into its pages

And now at 5:00am as the sky brightens

I haven’t got the energy to pick it up

I should file the thing; get it out of sight

But I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it

There on my floor

I may be a hermit to some

Old books covering my furniture and floors

Old junk filling up the spaces in between

But among all that will be that book

Hopefully long after I am gone

To tell my story

To somehow let me live on

If only on a page that few will read

Leif Gregersen

 

Mental Health and Walking:

I have always been a fan of endurance sports. I suppose it started as far back as the second Rocky Movie which I saw on TV. Everyone knows that Rocky Balboa is going to accomplish his goals when he goes running through the streets, thousands of children run with him as that amazing music plays. One thing I really like about the Rocky Movies is that Rocky doesn’t win all his fights. Like many of us, he does everything he can, fails, reinvents himself or finds new inspiration and then moves on to the next level. Rocky can’t always triumph, but he can always show he has heart, or perhaps more accurately as he says in his movies, he at least proves he is not a bum.

Walking is something that I have been taking up instead of playing difficult sports, jogging, even cycling. There are so many advantages to it. Perhaps the top one for me is just the time I get to spend on my own with my thoughts. Sometimes I will walk up to 2 hours a day and I can work everything out. I watched a video today that quoted some interesting studies on walking that I hope you won’t take at face value from me but research on your own. One of the studies they talked about was one that discovered a marked increase in mood for people with depression who walked 30 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week. I can honestly say that I do feel a lot happier after I walk and that now that I have been doing it for a few years I wouldn’t want to stop for any reason. I may have to slow down or take days off, but walking is so rewarding (in the happiness and in the feeling of fitness) that I hope I can keep it up for a long time to come.

For a while I didn’t like the idea of walking long distances though I often did as a boy. My Mom had lost a good deal of weight one time and looked amazing from walking about 5 miles a day. The problem came in when an incident, possibly connected, hopefully not, happened where she developed a crushed vertebrae in her neck and needed surgery. She gained her weight back soon during her recovery period and never really got back to the same levels of fitness before she passed away.

One interesting thing I have been noticing is that people with mental health issues seem to be at much more risk of diabetes. Perhaps because they are more sedentary, perhaps it has a lot to do with weight gain on psychiatric medications. Many people are told that their medications will cause them to gain weight, but also asked if they would prefer to be in active mental distress or psychosis or would they prefer to be slimmer. Almost anyone would prefer to be mentally healthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It may be extremely difficult, but there are ways to still lose weight, and I have found walking to be at the epicentre of the solution despite the effects of medications I take.

I have been walking five plus miles five times a week now as well as watching my calorie, sugar and fat intake. I should mention that I was diagnosed with type two diabetes a month ago despite thinking I  was active and fit. What I didn’t realize was that I was obese and I needed to make some changes. Walking was something I already did, so I just tried to ramp it up a bit and find excuses to walk every day like to go for groceries or even just to go to the pool to sit in the hot tub and weigh myself. The other thing I did was try to eliminate red meat, and anything with large amounts of fat or sugar. My Doctor also put me on Metformin, which is a very helpful medication. The results? I feel way better, people say I look slimmer, and since I have started monitoring my blood glucose levels, I seem to be in the healthy range a lot more of the time and I have lost nearly 30 pounds. I hope some of this is inspiring to you. My suggestion if you have a few pounds to lose or if you worry about diabetes is to load the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” into your music player of choice, get some good walking shoes (I love my new sketchers!) and go out and enjoy the sun! (Unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere). Best of luck and please post any questions or comments!

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Exercise and Chronic Tiredness in the Psychiatric Patient

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Well, today was simply a great day.  I had a few things to do, one of them being driving a friend for groceries, another was to take some photographs of a Ukranian Easter presentation.  Then I got to do one of my favorite things (no matter how much it may seem to aggravate me) which was spend time with my dad.

The old guy (Leif the first) can be a lot of fun to be around.  Some of my warmest memories of childhood have to do with things he taught me to do in his business like silk screening and engraving.  All that aside though, I wanted to say a few things on the topic of chronic tiredness in the psychiatric patient.  I will start with a bit of a horror story.

Going on 15 years ago now I was living in a small apartment and following my own schedule.  It was very hard to deal with the loneliness though it was back in the heyday of chat rooms which I participated in quite a bit.  I also had a movie rental place nearby which had a deal on two movies for 99c for a week and I ended up watching tons of them, it was really kind of fun.  The problem came in when I slowly started to drift away from any type of treatment for my illness.  I stopped seeing my Psychiatrist after missing a number of appointments, and I made the very poor decision that a high dose of depakene, the mood stabilizer I was taking, was the source of my low energy levels and so I felt it would be okay if I just dropped the dose down.  Nothing could have been worse of a mistake.

Slowly, without my awareness, I started to slip back into psychosis.  I started once again to believe that I was secretly some kind of rich person, that this woman I once knew who was very wealthy was trying to rescue me from the life I had made for myself.  In short I slowly became insane all over again.  And not even from stopping medication, just from lowering it.  The suffering that mistake brought on was unbelievable.  I spent the next six months locked in a Psychiatric facility after being arrested and taken to the mental hospital.  I was treated as a non-compliant patient because they thought I was no longer taking any medications and not only did the Doctor experiment on me, he had told my parents I would be in the hospital for two years.  All because I felt tired and wanted to try and improve my situation by lowering a medication.

All that aside though, being tired or out of energy all the time is a serious thing, and perhaps if I had been continuing to see my Doctor I may have found a solution.  New medications come out all the time.  I recently learned that there is a medication called Topomax that can do the job of Depekane and not leave a person feeling run down or make them crave food.  I tried going on it a few weeks ago and I really didn’t like the effects it had on me and so I stopped it, but it remains an option for me along with other newer drugs that are, as my pharmacist says, are more ‘clean’ drugs. Meaning they have less side effects

Just a few words now since the title promised about exercise.  I may have talked about this before, but when I got out of that long hospital stay my dad used to drive over to my group home and take me to the beautiful Edmonton river valley where we would walk for a couple of miles each day.  He was very kind and accommodating, he would let me rest when I needed it and didn’t mind that I might have to stop to have a cigarette (thank goodness I quit smoking 11 years ago!).  Just a little light exercise and fresh air now and then really made the difference.  Later on after I went back to security work I started going to the gym and the pool.  I was lucky that my swim and gym pass was subsidized, but I would recommend to anyone that they go to these types of facilities even if they have to pay.  Often a YMCA will give greatly subsidized passes to low income people and this is a great opportunity.

One of the big things about going to the pool after getting in reasonable shape with my Dad was that I started to make some very good friends at the pool who were outside of the mental health system but were understanding of my illness.  Another good thing about it was that I was able to get myself into great shape and was able to take on jobs that were increasingly better paying.  Then, by sheer luck, I stumbled into my present job as a stage hand which is possibly the best job a person in my situation could ask for.  And it wouldn’t have done me any good if I wasn’t in good shape from regular swimming and weights.

Another physical thing I have tried is Yoga.  I have never been to a studio or worked directly with an instructor, I simply put on a video I have in my living room and work through it on a mat I bought.  It is very renewing and relaxing, very refreshing through and through.  Physical health, a psychologist friend once told me, is so much a part of who we are, it is so very important.  What I can remember vividly was working out with weights on a regular basis and simply living in a ‘zone’ of feeling really good from head to toe.

So, basically gentle readers, I just wanted to try and talk a bit about tiredness and exercise.  I didn’t offer any real solutions to tiredness I don’t think but I warned of the dangers of lowering medications.  I guess I would also like to warn against allowing yourself to be addicted to caffeine.  I myself drink a little too much coffee and have been warned that it may contribute to my difficulty in sleeping, but I met a guy at work who was addicted to energy drinks and actually had so many of them that he became allergic to caffeine.  I think one of the best things a person on medications with low energy can do is something in the second part of this blog entry, just try and get out for a walk.  Eating healthy is a big element as well, but as per usual, anyone who reads this blog can feel free to email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will try to help all I can if I can.  Take care!

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Mental Health Issues and Insomnia (Sleep Hygiene)

DSCF1002My Roommate, Daniel, who is one of the nicest, kindest people I know

     Well, good readers, it is now 3am and for some reason I feel compelled to write about insomnia.  Just about everyone gets it, especially people with mental health issues.  A lot of questions pop up, like is my medication making me sleep too much, should I go on sleeping pills, and on and on.  Personally, I have one pill, called a PRN which basically means I can take it as needed, called Rivotril or Clonazepam.  If I ask for it, I can get a 0.5mg little orange pill and it often relaxes me enough to sleep.  One of the most important things I have to remember though, is that if I don’t get out of bed at a reasonable time, I will have problems sleeping even with the pill.

One of the things I like to do is swim laps and sit in the hot tub at my local fitness facility (thank you Edmonton city government for making these facilities accessible for those with low incomes!)  If I get in enough laps and don’t sleep too much, I find that I am more than ready to get a good sleep in that night.  How much exercise is right?  Hard to say.  I try to get in the pool and do laps until I’m tired, and if I have any energy left over I take off my flippers and swim a few regular laps and even add in push-ups and chair dips afterwords.  Whether or not it helps my sleep to sit in the hot tub is hard to say, I do like to sit in the hot tub for a few minutes before a swim just to get all my joints warmed up to lessen impact on them from going right into an exercise.

Along with my PRN Rivotril, I also have the option of taking a hormone you can get over the counter called Melatonin.  I cleared this with my Doctor and I think the only thing I really have to note about this is that I can’t take it every day.  If I take it too much I find that I get an almost painful restlessness through mostly my spine that often makes it impossible to sleep.  Now and then, when I have taken my pills and it is getting late at night or early in the morning and I can’t sleep I find that sometimes turning upside down in bed or even going downstairs to sack out on the couch helps.

One of my problems is that a lot of my life focuses around laying in bed.  Most Doctors will tell you that all you should do in bed is sleeping and intimacy, but I write letters on my iPad, make phone calls, read, listen to music and many more things that I am sure don’t help.  Another thing that I think doesn’t help my insomnia is that I take naps.  I haven’t discussed this with a Doctor, but I have heard information that I can’t confirm that it is very bad for a person to sleep a little here and a little there.  Sleep can be such a nice experience, as I mentioned before when I take my Prozac in the morning and go back to bed I have the most wonderful dreams and general feeling of well being for a few hours.

So what are the solutions?  I will try to recap.  One would be to get exercise, a good idea for anyone.  Even if you just get out and go for a walk or go up a few flights of stairs it will be beneficial.  The second is medication.  Sometimes I find myself needing Tylenol or Advil or even Gravol or Robaxacet and sometimes cold and flu medication.  These things can help me sleep but I am very concerned about getting dependent on them so I use them only when needed.  It seems I often need Advil just about every day due to headaches, but that is a bit of a different situation.  I have noticed that when I take an Advil I can take a nap and have a very peaceful and happy feeling.  The next step is to try not to nap, then to try not not to lounge around in bed if you can avoid it.  One other thing about staying in bed I should mention is that simply from your orientation against gravity, when you lay in bed too much, especially when you take medications, you can get acid reflux.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid this malady, it can be very painful and disturbing of a person’s natural cycles.  My Mom had acid reflux so bad she required an operation at one point to increase the size of her wind pipe just so she could breathe and eat properly, she had been bedridden for her last five or six years.

So what have we got-use drugs sparingly.  Don’t nap.  Exercise.  Try to fill up your day.  Only sleep in your bed.  Avoid sleep aids that cause dependency.  Getting the right amount of sleep each day is good for your well being, your feeling of healthiness, and almost definitely your moods.  When I pull an all nighter, I often find that my temper gets much shorter than normal and I even get a little paranoid and angry.  There are some good sleep aids out there like Melatonin, I have also had some good results just from taking a multi-vitamin, which, at least in me, seems to keep me from having nightmares, and also by taking what is often labelled stress vitamins which contain some B vitamins among other stuff.  Above all though, these are things that you should clear with your Doctor, I can only speak from my own experiences and everyone’s body chemistry is different.  I hope all of you can have a good rest, and as I say often, Good Night Sweet Princes and Princesses, and may a thousand angels sing thee to thy resting place.  I kind of stole that from Hamlet, the final scene, but still a nice thing to think of when you are on your way off to dreamland.

 IMG_4867One of my favorite things to do, taking pictures in the

park with my favorite person, my Dad