A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Monday, January 26, 2009

One Pound Lighter On The Road To Health

87 days free of smoking, a total of 6 days of exercise, 8 days on my diet, 1 pound lighter.

I just wanted to thank everyone who is following this blog, it really makes me feel good and I'm noticing there's developing a small blogging community of people with mental health issues, most especially those in recovery from schizophrenia. I'm proud of us for writing with intelligence and sincerity about our struggles and successes. Mental illness is a challenge and not a prison sentence anymore. I love the internet because it fosters freedom of expression and helps many of us work our way out of isolation. Most importantly there is a feeling of hope that with the right attitude and some outside help we can get through the worst of times and eventually embrace the best of times. I think blogging is a fantastic therapeutic tool and a great way to make and keep friends.

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Well, so far the diet and exercise plan is working--I lost one pound of fat this week, I have more energy, I'm in a better mood and I feel hopeful about this year in general. This is the year I lose the weight. Why is that so important for an obese person who suffers from schizophrenia? Because not only does the schizophrenia incline me towards social withdrawal, but being fat just compounds the problem and gives me yet another excuse to not be around people. There's enough stigma going on about mental illness, but so is there stigma about being obese. And, of course, it is not healthy. My good cholesterol is down and my bad cholesterol is up, in part due to the weight and lack of exercise. I know this. I've known this for several years. I've been super fortunate in that I haven't developed diabetes considering that some of the anti-psychotic meds that I've been on and am still on have been linked to that illness.

My therapist has pointed out that I respond to a certain amount of structure in my life. The hard part, since I graduated from school, is getting myself to apply a structure to my days and nights. Basically I've been drifting for years. I've noticed a pattern emerging of going from one creative activity to another and then alternating between having productive periods and having depressed and unmotivated periods. In starting this diet and exercise program, I appear to be treating my depression as well as distancing myself from my psychosis (the voices). Though I must admit that I have also been drinking about 4 cups of coffee during the first half of the day and that may be helping with lifting my mood and giving me a little push of extra energy. So now I'm getting up at roughly the same time each morning. My routine so far is to make a pot of coffee, prepare my breakfast (based on an Anne Collins meal plan), eat it, take my pills (including a daily vitamin pill for women with added calcium, iron and zinc), work on the computer for a couple of hours-maybe go to the AC site and read or post, exercise for 50 minutes (making sure that I sweat in the process), then I eat lunch, do chores (I'm on the brink of including cleaning and organizing my house each day) and that's as far as I've gotten with the structure, though I do go to the AC site later in the evening and post what I ate and drank for the day, how much exercise I've gotten and my total calories along with whatever comments I can think of.

The two things that have held me down are my weight (literally and figuratively) and my inability to clean and organize my living space. I've rediscovered a motivational site for cleaning and organizing one's home (www.flylady.net/), but I haven't thoroughly explored it yet. I will get back to you about it in the coming weeks. So, two major goals for this year are to lose most of the weight I've put on due to the medication, poor eating habits and lack of exercise and to clean and organize my house and keep it clean and organized. If I can keep myself clean and healthy and my home free of clutter and clean as well, I know I will be making strides in my recovery from the mental illness that fostered those weaknesses. I think it's all about loving and respecting yourself enough to believe that you can change for the better. I have taken back some control over my life just by learning how to eat healthy, get some exercise and keep myself accountable to a group of people who are also trying to do the same thing. People can motivate each other and should. I've said it before, but affirmations and having a positive attitude can move mountains. Tell yourself over and over that you can and there's a good chance that you will.

Sounds easy, but it hasn't been easy. I've lost my way many times and then learned from hard experience. If I could do the last ten years over again while still having schizophrenia, I would have started taking the meds from the beginning (might have spared me my three breakdowns in three years), I would have started a mental health support group in my area, I would have committed to a diet and exercise program before I started putting on the weight. There were things I did do that I'm glad I did like going to therapy, going back to school, working on having a belief in a higher power. All of those things helped me.

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Today I finally mailed off 6 paintings to another artist who had commissioned me to paint two portraits of her niece and nephew. I did more than two because I wasn't satisfied with the two I did do and I wanted to make sure she would be satisfied. I also wanted to show my gratitude because she has been very patient with me and very supportive. Painting is something I want to get back to now that I've come out of a slump.
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