mental health

Your mental health comes first.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
– WHO

It ended up not being a blog post last week. I had to take some me time due to personal circumstances that made the week and the one before rather hard.

Living with a mental illness is a full-time job, and often it is a full-time job you try to leave at home and not bring on about your day because of the stigma you might face. Managing mental heath is often a bumpy road. It can be a speeding treadmill where the only change in speed is up, eventually something’s got to give and 9 times out of 1+ it is you.

It is hard to try to get back in control when you are taken for that ride. For me, I always tend to think that the best way is through. I run at the wall, I will power through it; ignoring small symptoms that I always recognise in retrospect. The next wall will be ticker and maybe I can run through that one too. Keep on running and hit the next, just a little bit harder. Keep running. Keep ignoring. Unfortunately your skin and bones does not grow into steel in this process. Eventually a wall will be thick enough to cripple you and bring you to your knees.

I complete this process over and over, even after recognising the pattern. Because I am human. I make mistakes. The important part is to get back up again and how you go about it. What I have learned is that I need to ensure that I put my mental health above everything else, when I don’t things go wrong often disastrously so.

Putting your mental health first, does not mean that you will go about your day just doing what suits you and never compromise. Putting your mental health first means to exercise discipline, it is to go to bed early even if it is weekend, because you know routine is good for your mind. To put your mental health first also means that sometimes you will skip the gym, not just because you don’t feel like it but because you know if you go and underperform it will make you feel even worse.  Taking care of your mental health means cutting out people who aren’t good for you, even if you have a “hell-of-a-great-time”, sometime even if they are family. It is also cancelling plans that you might once looked forward to but now cannot bring yourself to do.

Having that aside, to put your mental health first also means not cancelling plans when you “just don’t feel like it.” It is going to the gym when you would rather watch Netflix, because you know it will make you feel good. It is separating the “I don’t want to” or “I feel like being lazy” from the “If I do this now, I will be worse off because of my mental state,” and take the appropriate action.

Taking care of your mental well-being is hard work and it is knowing yourself, so that you get a breather between the punches. All you can do it practice, learn something and get better; the important thing is to keep in mind that to be happier you should embrace the journey and stop worrying about the destination.

 

 

mental health

Practising self-care that actually works.

In September I wrote that I was aiming to write one post a month, obviously that did not happen, regardless how much I meant to be committed. There is not really any excuse, only an explanation: I have been busy practising self-care through one of my hardest periods this year. Which up until this working, I had no idea that it was actually working up until last weekend.

My happiness has always been anchored to other people or even things (like my FitBit). Or maybe rather whether or not I can catch on to someone else’s wave and stay afloat on their life raft. Most of the time I would not even be aware that I was doing it until it was  way to late.

That is a receipt for disaster every time, and a vicious circle, spiralling out of control so fast. It is also unfair, because no one should ever be solely responsible for someone else’s happiness, it is straining on any kind of relationship you try to forge. So for the better part of a year I have been practising being my own anchor, because the circle can only go one way.

The hard thing is, that there is no one-size fits all route to wellness and happiness. I used to read through all these self-help books, I did hypnotherapy, CBT. I tried listening to these wellness or happiness gurus whatever you might call them. I have read The Secret a million times, Later I tried making lists of things I am grateful for and I tried crying hysterically by myself trying to make it all come out. But the truth is that for any of these things to work, you actually need to have a fundamental shift within yourself. A shift which for me was entirely on a subconscious level.

Below I will write somethings that worked and seems to be working for me, I do not claim that these will work for everyone but it is was I think is affecting my mood and help me to better anchor myself.

So winding back a couple of months, I was at the height of being miserable, again. It was the sort of bottomless feeling of giving up on everything. A place where the sole act of breathing became a chore. When I was swimming there in the bottomless black sea of nothing but numbness I started to have a look around my current state of being and I made some decisions. First I decided to make lists of things I wanted to have done, I love lists and ticking things off them. So I put the most pedestrian things into my phone’s reminder app:

  • Re-Fill water bowl for the cats
  • Go to bed before 23:00
  • Play with the cats
  • Make dinner 2 times this week
  • Smile
  • Don’t eat bread
  • Do laundry

It was just every day things that I wanted to have done, tagged to dates and times I wanted to have them done by. And I still do this. I do not think I was aware of it at the time, but ticking off my self-given chores gave me a sense of accomplishment, which gradually helped to lift my mood.

I started to try to make things nice for myself. I purchased a lot of tea candles, votives and fragrant candles and I lit them, even if I was alone watching TV in my living-room. Just to create some god ol’ “hygge.” I purchased lots of tea, because I really like the idea of drinking tea in a candlelit room (turns out I do not like tea very much). And I even purchased myself flowers (turns out Lilies does not smell anything like most lily-fragrances will have you belive).

Making food has always been something I cannot be bothered with making if I am just making it for myself. But I started to make my own food, turns out I can make a great chicken curry and that even I can make gravy that does not lump. Not to mention that homemade food does taste much better than most of the bland takeaways you find around (I am not saying there are no good takeaways, but most of them are the same bland food in my opinion).

Over the summer I also finally signed up for that PT-course, which I completed in October/November. Which brings me to my next point: a change of scenery. I am not suggesting that you book a one-way trip to Australia or go on a crazy adventure. What I am suggesting is that you give yourself a break. For me it was the PT course. Even if it was highly intensive and compact course, it was a breath of fresh air. I was out of my normal 8-5 work environment. I did not have a single headache for those two weeks, I talked to new people and got a fresh input. It even kicked me back to the gym which I had been avoiding for the last 3 months prior to the course due to my mental exhaustion and lack of motivation which sprung on at the end of summer.

The course also gave me a new and bigger sense of accomplishment, because I have always been doubting my own abilities in all kinds of matters. I am a great student, I am good at acquiring new knowledge, understand it and put it to use. But, when push comes to show I usually bail out or I panic and fail, or I leave everything to the last-minute and screw everything up for myself, exams has always been the absolute worst for my nerves. This time I managed to pass all my exams with no fuss, no panicking (until after I turned in the exam at least) and on the first try because I did not make a half-assed attempt (like I often do to sabotage myself because I am too scared of not being good enough so I bail on the reading all together). It was a great win for me.

More recently I have started something I have always thought of as rather stupid. I have started to keep a journal, which I write in everyday. It is not like I list everything I did every day or write down a thousand things I am grateful for. What I try to do, is to write down anything I experienced as positive during the day. Sometimes it might just be one sentence, other days I can fill in paragraphs, depending on the day. The key is that I only write down anything I perceive as a positive event or train of thought. It was an Idea I got from listening to Introducing Happiness from Audible as one of the “exercises” they give are similar. The thought behind it is to try to remember the positive events and let the negative fade into the background. I started it as a silly experiment following listening to the Audible Podcast, but it is actually very giving or soothing now that I have adapted the suggested exercise to something that suits me. And I keep on doing it.

That leads me to the big finale where I for the first time could answer a pedestrian question “How are you?” with “I am fine.” For once I actually recognised that I was actually happy, and hardly recognise or trust. Which leads me to why it has taken me 7 days to compose this text, because I needed to be sure it was not the start of mania. So far, I feel safe about it.

So I think the message from me here is, that you need to find something that works for you. In order to find your inner calm or happiness, you need to do things that bring you joy.

Recommended reading, if you are interested: 

  • Introduction to happiness (Podcast on Audible.co.uk)
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy
  • The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • The Power by Rhonda Byrne
  • Wallace D. Wattles Premium Collection (You can get the 9 books in One Volumes)
mental health · Workouts

Recovering from recovery days

Weightlifting is a crutch I cling to, for better and for worse. However recovery days are a necessary evil, and my serotonin level drops without daily exercise.

I had a hard work out regime last week which ended with me needing a recovery day. Normally I work on a three split program which means a recovery day is not necessary because each muscle group gets two days recovery while I work other parts of my body. However, in a length of time, even if I change-up the exercises, this regime gets repugnant and I hit a plateau. This is why I chose to do the 4000 reps in 4 days program even though I knew I would need at least one recovery day afterwards.

Thursday was my last day on this hellfire program and Friday was my recovery day. I planned to have one recovery day it turned into three, because I simply lost the motivation to go back to the gym.

My serotonin levels were not stimulated on Friday which meant an immediate drop i my mood and Saturday was even worse but I just could not bring myself to go back to the gym.

When you have bipolar disorder, routine is everything. I have learned this over the last couple of years, but I still mess up because I feel like I am better. Routine puts an order to everything, I go to work at the same time, I go to the gym after work and I go to sleep at the same time. I skip one of them and all three gets messed up.

This means that on Saturday since I had not been to the gym in two days, I struggled to get to sleep at a reasonable time, which meant that on the time I am usually at the gym on Sunday I was still sleeping. When I woke up on Sunday I just did not see any reason to go to the gym, because it was in mu obsessive mind “Too late.” Weekends are troublesome to me anyhow, because I only work some weekends, and I have a weekend schedule: I go to the gym by 12 pm at the very latest. This makes sure I get up in the morning, the earlier the better.

Luckily today was Monday and everything resets: I go to work in the morning, I bring my bag with me and I hit the gym. I am back on track. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, but I almost did not go to the gym today because I was still feeling a constantly low mood which comes with my persisting depressive episode.

Now after working out, I already feel better, and I will go to the gym again tomorrow taking it one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 Lifts in 4 days – day 3 & 4

I am officially done, and tomorrow will be a well deserved rest day. 4000 lifts in 4 days is completely doable, and my body is 100% fatigued from this. Not a single joint is pain-free (soreness) and today was the hardest day of all with single joint movements at 50% of 10 rep max.

I have enjoyed these days at the gym, they have been hard and I have the weak point in all my lifts so I know how to work from here. My lower back and shoulders were the losers in this challenge. The important part is that I got through it and it felt like it gave my heart quite a pump as well (the beginning of each set felt more like cardio than anything).

Will I be doing this routine again?

At this point my answer is no, this was hell, but ask me again in four months or next time I hit a plateau and I am sure this routine would be helpful to kick my muscles into action again.

Tomorrow I will have a good rest and then I will keep going, one lift at a time.

Uncategorized

An Introduction

So I figured I would start this blog off by having a short introduction.

I am starting this blog to follow my own journey through mental health issues, archiving fitness and hopefully help others along the way.

For the last few years I depression has helped me dig a hole so deep I could almost bury myself in it. I got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder II about a year ago, which gave me a name to call my struggle but no new means to fight it.

This January and February I found myself again far below rock bottom, trying to remember last time getting out of bed did not feel like an unreachable accomplishment. When was the last time turning off the light at bedtime didn’t make it impossible for me to get up before noon.

It took a couple of tries, and it took changing my medication, but I could vaguely remember a time a few years back when it did not seem like I was looking at the world through a foggy glass.  And I will not say that I have stumbled up on a magical cure for my condition, but I have found a way to cope with my illness.

In May I started to go back to the gym, doing something I know I am good at: lifting heavy things. Of course I had to start small, nowhere near I where I was back when. I started out feeling like a body weight squat would kill me, but slowly I got better and through perseverance I can now go through my day without a constant feeling of wanting to drop off the face of the earth.

Going to the gym is my crutch and for now I am clinging to it for my dear life. If I am having a bad day, I know that I can make it more tolerable, one lift at a time.