Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Best Shape of My Life

Today is the Minnesota Twins' first Spring Training game (Update: Twins won). With training camp and ST comes one of the better clichés in the sport - players citing that they are in the best shape of their lives after five months off. Strict diets and new exercise routines are most common, you'll also hear it from athletes attempting to come back from serious injuries. This offseason, Twins reliever J.R. Graham said he cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs in order to lose 30-40 pounds.

It's something that's mostly poked fun, as it's said by a handful of players every year, sometimes aware of the overused cliché, sometimes not. For me though, I believe I really am in the best shape of my life.

I decided to write this after coming back from the grocery store. I don't drive, but Target is only a mile away from my apartment, so I'll make that walk back and forth a couple times a week. Today I made an effort to concentrate on my breath, making sure to breathe through my nose deeply. I remembered of just 2-3 winters ago when I would have to stop and gasp for air just trying to get back over the bridge on Selby.

I've lost 30 pounds since then (225 -> 195), planning to lose another 10 or so in the upcoming months. I have always eaten well in terms of distribution between carbs/protein/fat, the change happening through portion control and cutting down a significant amount of pop. I've also included some supplements since then - fish oil, folic acid, and green tea extract - as they were recommended by a psychiatrist I had a few years ago. Even started doing some yoga at home.

Feeling better about myself physically, and wanting to continue with it, is reliant on my mental health - which also happens to be pretty good right now. The biggest change in helping my mental health was something I think most people might find relatively simple: a consistent sleep schedule. I've mentioned before that I have struggled with sleep since middle or high school, and staying up til 3-4am (or later) was typical. Starting your day at 2 or 3pm, especially during the winter-time, was a depressing experience.

First thing to fix was getting my day started at 10am. No matter when I went to bed, I wanted to wake up and stay up at 10am. That's progressed to pushing the alarm earlier (currently at 9:30am) as well as mixing in getting a sleep time of 1am or earlier. The waking up part has been consistent now for 11 months, and it's not something I actively think about much anymore. Having a bedtime has still been a bit of a struggle, but have been paying attention to it for 3 months.

Since then, I've been adding different aspects - moving away from the "I don't want to feel (this negative thing)" and how I just wanted to avoid any backtracking of my progress. Now I'm trying to figure out "What do I want to feel?" and grow the belonging or worthwhile feelings. I've also begun to plan days out ahead, trying to add more stability. Exercise and diet are still at the forefront as well. It's a lot of trying to build as much momentum as I can.

There's still internal resistance. I do pros and cons almost every morning of whether or not I want to have a successful/productive day or a day of doing nothing. A productive day means more pressure and expectations I can put on myself combined with a lack of confidence. A day of nothing means I can be engrossed in a videogame, movie, or show, and just not feel/worry about anything. I can also still spend a full day of beating myself up with ease.

What's most beneficial, however, is that I have the freedom to choose which kind of day I want to have, and the freedom to change my mind at any time. That sort of control I don't think I've ever had in my life before.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mental Illness Hypochondria

I have a few mental illnesses that are 'confirmed'. Diagnoses that I've gotten from a couple of doctors through talking and testing with them. They're pretty simple stuff - Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder. I've had these things for a while, and doing well with keeping them under control with the help of therapy and social interaction with friends/family.

My physical health, I'm not all that worried. Fear never really takes over, I assume a lasting bump on my leg or back isn't anything serious and will go away or a person on the bus coughing near me isn't going to catch on. But when it comes to other mental illnesses, I'm a bit of a hypochondriac.

Looking up hypochondria specific to mental illnesses, I found that A) a lot of people who seem to keep close tabs of their mental state are more worried, and B) the main diagnosis I always seem to be concerned about most is also the most common from others - schizophrenia.

noun: schizophrenia
  1. a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.
Also by researching this mental illness hypochondria thing, it makes a lot of sense why schizophrenia would be a focus. From a comment way back in 2005 -

I think, in many ways, it makes [a lot of] sense. Hypochondriacs tend to focus on very debilitating and catastrophic illnesses, and schizophrenia certainly fits the bill. It's a disease that, like certain types of cancer, has a very poor prognosis and represents a complete loss of control for the sufferer. In it's most extreme manifestations, it *represents* a kind of death. And, let's face it, death is the currency of hypochondria. 
But to address more practical matters, it's important to realize that a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia is a denial of the disease. Those impaired with it do not recognize their own cognitive dysfunctions as disease. So, more likely than not, if you had it, you would not worry that you had it. You would actually deny that you had it, generally speaking. 

That second paragraph did a lot of help for me tonight as I was stressing about this while trying to sleep. Still, the ominous thought that one day I'll lose control or become delusional is very frightening. On a lesser scale, there are other mental illnesses I stress over - thinking I have something on the autism spectrum (Asperger's probably), paranoia, and become very obsessive-compulsive - that I hope can go away eventually, most likely through therapy.

As always, I feel awkward trying to end one of these posts. So I'll finish this one by asking: Do you worry about having or developing any mental illness that has never been diagnosed?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Depression is Down, Desire is Up

When something is going well, I'm a very vigilant person. More than just 'waiting for the other shoe to drop', I typically wouldn't allow myself that positivity or happiness for much longer than a day before counteracting it with some sort of self-sabotage. Happiness is uncomfortable, new, and scary as hell to me; depression is what I'm used to, and there's a significant comfort I have with it.

So it's both good and terrifying that I've been feeling less depressed for the past couple of weeks. There's been a number of factors that are helping, what has helped most was finally getting to a spot where I really wanted the (sometimes literal) beating myself up continuously to stop. Nights where I stay up, stuck on thinking about previous failures and how I'm never going to improve enough to have a future worthwhile, are shit. Those nights suck up wants and desires. I had to, and keep having to, stop letting nights like those happen.

With feeling less depressed, there's two things I've been noticing. First is trying to be okay with it, trying to get the anxiety down of this new/different thing. Second is dealing with what my brain is filling up with when I'm not concentrating on my depression as much - and that's what I want/desire. There's a lot of different things I want, but this is the first time in a long time that I'm giving myself a chance to really think about it without getting mad at myself about them or be stuck in hopelessness.

It's a cool feeling, and I want this to continue.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Meta-Conversation

I find myself to be a below-average talker. In a serious conversation, I'm going to be slow because I want to really think about what it is I'm saying and to try to make perfect sense, but I'm still likely to mess up some of it by the end. I have absolutely terrible eye contact, my therapy appointments can consist of me staring into one corner of the room, and in the last few years, I've noticed myself closing my eyes completely while talking to others because it's easier (haven't gotten into the psychology of "why" yet). When in lighter conversations, I am more apt to be quick and it's going to be witty, droll, or maybe just mean - my friend Joe can attest to that.

Through text, it's a lot easier, because I feel like I have a lot more time. I'm going to type out what I want to say in three to five different ways, take bits and pieces of each, and come up with something hopefully sensible.

In conversation, I would really love a pause button - stop time and just get it figured out to my best ability before we can move on again. Being that that's not possible, the consolation to it would be something that I was thinking about the other night.

I called it 'meta-conversation' because I couldn't think of anything better, and wasn't aware of any coined term that described what I was putting together in my head. By googling meta-conversation, I'm not the first person to think about it either. This person from two years ago has a video that really got the general idea of what I would want to do.

Basically, I would love the chance to stop a current conversation with a friend or family member, and start an analyzing second conversation about it.‏Doing all of the typical self-analysis during the conversation (the self-conscious thoughts, the wanting to say one thing, but thinking it would come off as a way you don't want, or just being unsure of what to say), but out loud, and the other person able to do the same.‏

It would be completely vulnerable. It makes me both terrified and have a real desire to do it. Of course, in reality, I could probably only be able to pull this off with four or five people in my life. Also, it would make more sense to follow along the lines of the video where it's a much more subtle way of doing it and in smaller doses.

I don't know, this has kept me really interested for the last 36 hours, and I hope to try it out at some point with others.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Update

It's been 9 months since my last post, although I've probably opened up Word to write one about a dozen times since then. It gets so wordy and it rambles on and on, whatever starting point I was at goes down a long-winded tunnel that I can't make sense of when I try reading it back.

I've been thinking about doing an update here for a week or two, and then with what happened today regarding Robin Williams, the urge to write something grew, so here I am.

Major life events in the past 9 months:
  1. Graduated from my DBT group in late February.
  2. ....
That's really kind of it. This is a big problem when it comes to catching up with friends and family, I have absolutely nothing to add. One conversation with a friend consisted of me dreading and explaining the stressors of making a dentist appointment for three weeks (one I've given up on now without ever actually going to an appointment).

Then it's the physically painful conversation I had with my grandfather a few months ago of him asking what I do with my days. I was unprepared, and even a broad answer like "working on my depression and anxiety," didn't come to mind. I simply said "I don't really know," and he thankfully (or unthankfully) just left it at that. I don't know if he still remembers that particular conversation, but I'm kind of hoping he asks again sometime soon, so I can hopefully spit out something better than that.

What "working on my depression and anxiety" means currently is whatever my individual therapist is giving me. Right now, I'm struggling on getting out of the apartment. It can always be an issue, but times like now are when I really need to be aware of it. So I have written out a little schedule for two weeks (time between appointments) and it's roughly every other day that I make myself scheduled to go out. Self-judgements come first when I'm writing something like this - "90% of these things are to just get groceries or to stupidly walk around going nowhere with headphones on for 30 minutes" "How fucking pathetic is it that I don't even believe in myself enough to make it outside every day?" - like with anything that is designed to get me better, I have the initial worse feelings. A day or two later, I'm ready to actually work on the schedule, and it has helped. The central focus now is the days that I'm not making it outside when I said I would, and what (if anything) I'm doing/saying to try and still make it out.

The other two 'assignments' my psychotherapist has are two bigger projects. The first one is a relationship timeline - a breakdown of every significant relationship I've had in my life, the positives and negatives I've gotten from them, to try and figure out exactly what it is I want from future relationships (and what to avoid). Another great/not-so-great part of the relationship timeline is seeing why some of these relationships ended. I've found that a lot have never had a falling out or blow up or anything of the sort... they just died. I stopped talking to them and they stopped talking to me.

The second one is what I've been avoiding for 6 days now. It's an otherwise empty sheet of notebook paper with the questions on top of: "What is the fear of getting better? What's stopping me?" A million and one things come to mind, and while I would love to write it out and make better sense of the jumbled mess in my head, it's also going to hurt really, really badly.

That's it. My birthday is in eight days (the 20th), and I turn 25. Not sure what my plans are about writing here again, but hopefully it will be within 9 months.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sleep Being a Challenge

One of the early signs of me feeling worse (depression and suicidal thoughts going up) is when I'm having more difficulty than normal falling asleep. Sleep has always been a problem for me, at least since Middle or High School, so sometimes it can be difficult for me to figure out if it's just the 'normal' staying up til 3-4am, or tossing and turning until 3-4am or later.

These past three weeks, my sleep has been terrible. I've been staying awake until 7am in a lot of cases, this past Sunday I finally fell asleep at 4pm after being awake the previous 30-some hours. It's a mess, and as a result (or source), I've been miserable.

When I've been awake, I'm doing a lot of busy stuff. I'm on my computer, been reading more books, walking more, been making more stops to the coffee shop nearby that I like being at, but none of these things have had any real meaning - these are things that I'm doing to avoid attempting to sleep.

I'm wanting to avoid attempting to sleep because thoughts have been the issue. I've been thinking about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) a lot, something that I did around this time last year, and possibly doing it again. Not really for the chance of getting better, either. I'd like to do it again for the idea of my short-term memory being wiped out every other day. While it would be an easy out, it sounds like such a good thing to do. If it were possible, I'd love to have my entire memory erased and be given a do-over.

One of the things I remember most clearly when I went for my ECT appointments last year were laying in the bed right before being given the anesthesia. Surrounded by 2-3 doctors and the nurse who I'd talk with in the room before for a few minutes to get prepped. They'd talk with me shortly, make sure I knew my name, DOB, a couple other things, then give me the anesthesia. The cold sensation that I'd feel up my arm right before falling asleep is one I honestly wish I could have more of. Just that instant sleep, on command, is something I'd love to have, especially on days where I'm unable to fall asleep on my own.

This is where the more permanent option of instant sleep on command comes into my mind, and it's difficult to get away from it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Example of why I Hate my Brain

'Here are 5 successes. These are things that have made you feel competent, confident, even happy in the recent past. Simply sit with them, attempt to allow yourself to feel those things again when you're thinking about those successes, and don't do anything else.'

Getting these instructions from my therapist, I instead analyze all of those successes, invalidate them, and shatter them.

I broke them down to a point where these now so-called "successes" were through no doing of my own (either just happenstance, a nice way of saying I really failed, or since they're not current, they don't count).

Not only that, but I made comparisons to what I view a "normal" person my age would be dealing with. That's when I get the feeling I'm behind where every body else is in life, I'm defective & I'm inferior.

All of this was in a matter of 45-60 seconds. I break down crying because of this frustration that my brain and line of thinking always seems to point towards the way where I suffer. I can't allow myself to enjoy successes, and I have no compassion for myself to where it might lighten that suffering. I can barely allow other people's compassion because either I don't believe them or I don't deserve it & them.

I really hate my brain.