Monday, June 27, 2016

Thank You My Friends

       It has been an honor and a pleasure being a part of your lives for so long now. Thank you for coming along with me each week. I am happy to announce that there have been some fantastic changes in my life that have forever altered the course of mine, and my family's, life. They will require a great deal of time, and thus, I will no longer have time to write and keep up with the social media. Of course, a part of me wishes I could do it all, but the future is bright and I thank all of you for your amazing support and encouragement. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and hope that this blog/site will remain a source of encouragement and hope. I have purchased the domain for ten years, so everything will be up for at least that long. Again, thank you for reading. I hope you find peace and contentment in all that you do.

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Slightly Better This Week

       I can't wait to tell you all what happened to me this week when I purchased a new powered weed trimmer. I made an absurd mistake after doing a great deal of research on these machines. Once I got it corrected, I've laughed at myself ever since. The whole situation highlights a wonderful concept in science that has helped many times in the past. Notice I said in the past? Yeh, I didn't apply it to the #@$% weed-whacker this past week. Oh well. It happens.

       The good news is I didn't have any major panic attacks this past week and my medications are working slightly better than the week before. Some things just take time and medication changes and adjustments are certainly one of those things.

       Between now and the time I get to write about the #@%! weed-whacker experience I hope that these social media posts are, in some small way, helpful.








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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn


       I can't wait to see what unfolds over the next nine to twelve weeks. I am going to be swamped with activities and things that must be done. As I mentioned last week, my family just bought a beautiful little home in our favorite part of the city. Soon, we’ll be packing, painting, moving and repairing a large garden. My wife is a teacher, so she and both my daughters will be home from school. Obviously, I want to spend as much time with them as possible. We also have travel plans for a fantastic vacation this summer. I have no idea how I am going to be able to design and put up my daily posts on all the social media platforms that I am on, much less write every week.

       I have struggled for two weeks over what I should do. I was horrified that I wouldn't be able to write at my best or at all. That, I would somehow let all of you, the readers I love, down by not providing hard-hitting, scientific information or inspirational posts each week. My outlines are all in depth and require an enormous amount of time and effort to bring to fruition. I had resigned myself to taking the summer off from writing. I was going to design and post my social media messages, and leave it at that. Then, something amazing happened last night! I had one of the worst panic attacks I've had in years.

       I was at the dinner table at my in-laws' house after sitting on the back porch crunching numbers on how we were going to pay for this big move and our summer of fun. You can probably imagine; I was already a little stressed. I was in tight quarters, and I'm claustrophobic. They were all happy and boisterous. I wasn't so lucky. I was suddenly overcome with horror. My chest tightened up, I could barely breathe and my hands went numb. It had been so long since I had a panic attack that severe, I didn't recognize what was happening at first. Then it hit me.

       I jumped up from the table and walked outside where I began my breathing techniques. I told myself that my adrenal gland was merely overproducing adrenaline and that I had pushed myself too far. I began listening to the Panic playlist on my phone. I went for a short walk down the street out front to try and burn off some of the adrenaline. I jotted down some things that I was grateful for. NOTHING WORKED. I had to have my wife take me home. My mother-in-law brought our kids home later so they could stay and have dessert. I was completely overrun. There was no overcoming it in that environment. I had to quickly wave goodbye as I nearly ran to the car.

       After about an hour the panic began to subside. I could breathe again, and I got the feeling back in my hands. That’s when I decided. I can't stop writing! The next nine to twelve weeks will be an adventure. The posts may not be packed with scientific information that you can apply in your life, but they will be filled with the truth. I do my very best to keep my symptoms at bay, and sometimes that isn't enough. Sometimes my mental illnesses get the better of me. If they were easy to deal with, if there were a cure, if we could wave a magic wand and make them go away, we would. I know this won’t come as a shock to most of you, but we can't. Life can be difficult. Symptoms can arise. I've found that it's what I do about them that makes all the difference.


       I know many of you may be thinking that I don't have any real problems. I agree! We are moving into a home we love in the perfect part of the city, and we have to go on vacation. Poor me, right? RIGHT! I live by my schedule and routine. It makes me feel safe and keeps me on track. I feel safe where we live now, and this new home will be a huge adjustment for me. Everything will be off kilter. I am well aware that these are ridiculous sounding problems, but for a person who suffers from mental illnesses that are on the severe end of the spectrum--they are enormous.

       Add to that the fact that my doctor and I decided some medication changes were in order a few weeks ago, and they aren’t going very well. Medication changes are such a pain and can be so unpredictable. Oh well. I’m certainly not complaining. I have a caring, highly educated MEDICAL doctor who is doing her best to help me. We’ll get it figured out soon enough. We always do.

       With the upheaval in my life, my lack of free time and unfortunate reactions to medication changes, I have no idea what I'm going to be writing, saying or putting up on this site for the next nine to twelve weeks. It may be one sentence. It may be how I am working through some things I’ve had to face the last few days. It may be about an incredible triumph I had the previous week. There will probably be some funny stories. It seems that I can get myself into some of the strangest situations when things are off kilter in my life. Whatever it is, why would I not want to share it with you? Why not do this together? 

       I would like to point out that it will not devolve into a pity party or me whining about how unfair mental illnesses are. I understand that some find those types of blogs/sites helpful. That’s fine. I can’t read them. I prefer to acknowledge a problem and then work on a solution. That's what works for me.


       In short, the next nine weeks will be an account of a man who has mental illnesses, takes his medication, exercises every day, makes sure to get at least thirty minutes of a wellness activity in and who eats healthy, but who is going through a tumultuous time in his life. If you have grown accustomed to my geekiness and the fact that I typically write about scientifically-backed ways to improve mental health, hold on because we are going on a ride for a little while. If nothing else, hopefully, it will be interesting.

       Many people love to tell us that if we just did this or that we would be cured already. I'm here to shout from the rooftops that I do as much as possible, and I'm not cured. Things come up. Even good things can be completely overwhelming. I know I will be stronger and wiser on the other side of this. It’s the getting to the other side of this that can be a little tricky. One thing is for sure, out of hell can come heaven. That I know for a fact. Often, the darkest hour is just before the dawn!

       I'm sure I will receive many emails and direct messages from quacks telling me how I can cure myself, immediately. Here's a simple message if you are thinking of doing that, don't. In other words, all the snake oil salespeople and all the critics can back off. I don't care about what you're selling or about what you think. I have science on my side. That and 23 years of practicing resiliency since I was first diagnosed, so crooks and critics needn’t bother messaging me.


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.   
-Theodore Roosevelt
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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Accepting Failure As A Part of Success


       As odd as it may sound, I've learned to love mistakes and failures. Admittedly, I may not be overjoyed at first, however, when I remind myself of what a mistake or a failure actually mean and what they do for me, I am quickly back on track, more determined than ever. The reason is simple. Throughout my life, I have failed far more than I have succeeded. Anytime I have gone about learning a new skill, mastering a new technique, or began a new course of action there have always been the inevitable mistakes. How could there not be? No one starts anything new and instantly becomes a master. I like to remind myself that all masters were once beginners.


       
       The other reason I've come to love mistakes and failures is I learn a great deal from them. When I succeed, which of course I love to do, I learn very little. I learn that whatever I was doing was correct, and that's that. When I make a mistake or utterly fail at something, however, my possibilities are opened up, and I can take off in completely different directions. When I decided to regain my physical health, for example, I tried so many different types of exercise; I lost count. If anyone had told me, I would end up loving running, hiking and rock climbing I would have said they were crazy. Through many failed attempts at other forms of exercise, eventually, I did land on those and fell in love. It took all those mistakes, all those failed attempts at other forms of exercise, to find what I loved. Thank goodness I stunk at the other things I tried, or I would have never found my true joys!

       
       Not only do mistakes and failures allow me to change course directions and find my true callings, they push me to be better at them once I've found them. If I'm not occasionally failing, becoming slightly overwhelmed or experiencing a few setbacks from miscalculation, then I'm not trying hard enough. An excellent example of how this belief demonstrates itself in my life is when I go sailing. People who go sailing with me know they had better hold on tight, because if I didn't tip the boat at least once during the season, I would be disappointed in myself. I wouldn't have been sailing; I would have been sightseeing. There is nothing wrong with sightseeing, but that is not my priority. My priority is to have fun and be the best sailor I can be. As Arianna Huffington said, "Failure is not the opposite of success; it is a part of success." The following clip is part of a commencement address Denzel Washington gave. It addresses this philosophy beautifully.


       So when the inevitable mistakes and failures come in my life, I try my best to realize that they are nothing more than learning experiences that will, in all likelihood, lead me to a better place than I had been trying to get to previously. My greatest periods of growth have come during my darkest hours. It took a long time to say this, but I'm grateful for them now. I love the way Maya Angelou put it when she said, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must never be defeated."

       
       I'm not saying this is easy. I'm certainly not saying that it doesn't take practice, but once I realized this is the way life is, and accepted it, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I am NOT defined by my mistakes but by what I do about them. Mistakes, failures, and missteps are a part of life. It's how I handle them determines everything.

       This is a fun clip from one of our family's favorite Disney movies, Meet the Robinsons. It's a fantastic reminder that failures are nothing to be ashamed of and are merely part of the process. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Please, Ask for Help!


       On May 13th, 2011 my Pops (dad) lost his battle with mental illness. His medication levels had gotten completely off, and he took his life. I not only lost my father, I lost my best friend. We talked every day. He was the kindest, funniest, most unselfish person I've ever met. The last word anybody that knew him would use to describe him would be selfish. Anyone who says a person with a mental illness who loses his/her battle with their illness is selfish hasn't dealt with mental illnesses. They haven't experienced the stigmas and often don't understand the situation. 

       Stigmas played a large role in his medications getting so far off and him being unable to ask for help. We are strong, compassionate, loving people. It's time to let the world know and to break down these stigmas. That is why I came out as The Mental Runner. It's not always easy for me or my family when the whole world knows that I have mental illnesses, but fighting these stigmas is a worthy cause that I will fight for with everything I have.

       In the spirit of breaking down those stigmas, I'm paying tribute to a fighter. The man who originally taught me to be a warr;or. A man that I am proud to call my father, and a man who will always be remembered as someone who gave his best. A truly good man.

       If you need help PLEASE ask for it. Forget about what other people think. You are worthy of help and there is hope. Click the link on the left side of your screen for the International Suicide Prevention Association, and you will be directed to the resources that can help you in your area of the world.

      This music video is what I have always had dedicated to my Pops. This is what my hearts sings out when I think of him. 









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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thoughtful Thursdays

       I'm excited to announce Thoughtful Thursdays. Occasionally, I am going to take a day to reflect on some of the social media that I've created and the captions that accompanied them. I realize that many of you follow by different means such as email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, bookmarking, etc. That means many of these will be completely new to some of you. I love creating them and sharing them, so occasionally taking a day to reflect on a few will be fun. I hope they bring you joy. I certainly do enjoy creating them. 

I have had to learn to roll with the punches & never give up. Symptoms or not, I've been given this life & I intend to live it!


I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive, to live deeply and passionately. Small positive steps each day make that possible.


Symptoms can make life hard but overcoming them brings me strength, compassion and joy. I'm grateful!


Deciding to never give up & to take positive action each day was scary. Staying stuck where I was~even scarier!


I can't wait for someone to save me. Others certainly help, but I must save myself. No one can do it for me.

I'll never say attaining better mental & physical health is easy but I'll always say it's worth it. There's Hope!


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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nature Walks & Hikes for Better Mental & Physical Health

       The data that has been coming in from researchers all over the world is confirming the long-held belief that walking in nature is good for mental and physical health. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because when I began my quest for better health, this is one of the first things I was able to do to help improve my life.

       I had decided to break down all the research that has come in, as normal, that proves how incredible a simple walk on a nature trail or in a beautiful park can be for our health. I was going to cover the lowered anxiety scores, lowered blood pressure readings, lowered symptoms of depression, improved cardiovascular performance and greatly improved rumination scores. I decided against that. 

       Instead, I want to share some of the things I've seen/experienced on my walks, hikes and runs in nature. I'm going to put up a few pictures I've taken and post a one-minute video of a hike I did last Friday. If anyone wants the data, much of it can be found in Outdoor Exercise and Mental Illnesses1 or in the links at the bottom of the page. Science and data are always wonderful motivators for me, but so is the beauty found in Nature. I was tempted to put up pictures of grand wildernesses that I've taken. Instead, I've gone with pictures of ordinary things, in ordinary places, to demonstrate the philosophy that I believe in: What I look at isn't nearly as important as what I decide to see. I hope the silly titles help illustrate that point.

       First things first, I want to be clear. In the beginning, I wasn't able to walk for very long or for very far, but I kept at it. I've mentioned before that the last time I came home from a mental ward I wasn't able to walk for more than five minutes due to my obesity and the swelling in my feet from all the medications I was having to take. As you can probably tell from the first picture, I wasn't walking far, and I wasn't running anywhere (I was actually over thirty pounds heavier than this the last time I came home from a mental ward). However, small steps are infinitely better than no steps! Those humble beginnings, those small first steps, helped lead me to this life that I love. Going for outdoor walks was/is a key ingredient in my wellness plan.



       Below is the video from last week's hike and a few pictures I've taken while walking, hiking and running in nature. I hope you enjoy them and that they may inspire someone to step out their front door and go for a walk. It could be the small step in the right direction that changes someone's life. We never know unless we try.



Stump

Feather

Sand

Sunrise

Tidepool
Sunset

Puddle

Swamp

Beach

Creek

Marsh

Leaves

Fungus

Path

Trees

City Park

       Obviously, I am not a photographer and all of those pictures were taken in public parks and nature trails around our house or around whatever little vacation spot my family and I may have been at (I always look up public parks and nature trails when we travel). The point is, nature is everywhere. Even in the city, it's never far away. People don't have to take a trip to Alaska, the Outback or the Serenghetti to go for a walk in nature and improve their health. 

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
questions@thementalrunner.org