Monday, June 18, 2018

Mental Health Stats

When I write posts about mental health, although they are very personal, my struggles are far from uncommon. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness occurs commonly in adults and children. Here are some statistics from the article, "Mental Health by the Numbers:"
  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.
In my next couple posts I'll write my diagnosed illness and how they affect me.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Donut Weight and Mental Health

In the past month, donuts have helped me lose weight. Let me explain.

Last fall I decided to finally spend some time letting my injuries heal. It meant running very little and taking several breaks from running altogether.  I tried to keep up my fitness through weight training, calisthenics, elliptical, and stationary biking, but unfortunately I still managed to put on about fifteen pounds between last October and the end of January.

Besides cutting down on running and eating more than I needed (especially snacks and sweets), one major factor in my weight gain was medication. People with mental illness are especially susceptible to weight gain, and medications are a major culprit. I'm on two medications that both have weight gain as a side effect, and another medication that causes increased appetite. It's no surprise that maintaining and/or losing weight is difficult.

 While doing research to find ideas for losing weight, I found out that over 80% of people with mental illness are overweight or obese. Reasons for this problem include lack of social support, poor motivation, embarrassment at being seen exercising in public, and medications. The good news is, while there are difficult challenges to overcome, people with mental illness can lose weight.

A study that gave people with mental illness three workout classes per week and one weight loss/nutrition class per week showed promising results. Many of the patients lost weight, with 38% losing 5% or more of their body weight. You can reading about the study on the PsychCentral Website: People with Serious Mental Illness Can Lose Weight Too.

Reading the study was encouraging to me, but after trying from the end January to the end of March to lose weight, I wasn't finding much success. In college when I ran cross country, I weighed about 150 lbs. While I don't necessarily need to be that light again, I'd at least like to get close.

So, I set a goal of getting to around 155 lbs. I planned to lose about a pound a week until I reached my goal, but by the end of March the scale hadn't budged. That's when donuts came in.

I've always done best with diet when I some sort of goal other than the weight loss itself. In the past it's been eliminating or reducing sweets. This time, I decided on eliminating or reducing snacks. But, I also wanted to give myself a reward.

Enter the donut. Since I had a ways to go to my weight loss goal, I decided to  reward myself with a donut when I weighed under 165 lbs. I weighed about 172 at the time, and after several weeks, I got to reward myself with a donut. I love donuts. I get my next one when I crack the 160 lbs mark.

Run well.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Mental Health: Early Summer

Spring and early summer sometimes bring with them bipolar episodes -- generally hypomanic episodes that make it difficult to sleep well, focus, and manage increased energy. While I'm feeling well right now, this time of year does bring me a certain anxiety and a fear that my bipolar symptoms will flare up, making it difficult to complete my daily activities.

While life can get difficult, there are things I do to manage or prevent an episode. Right now I'm trying to eat well, get good sleep, and exercise. While these things help, in the past it has been very frustrating when I feel like I'm doing all the right things, and the episodes still happen. While I've been told otherwise by my friends, family, and health care providers, it still feels like it's my fault for having an episode.

Still, I'm trying to stay optimistic. I'm on a combination of medications I haven't been on during the spring and early summer, and since I started this combination in February, I haven't had even a blip of an episode.

So, having made it this far through spring, I'm going to keep doing what I can to prevent an episode and try and do my best to not worry about the things that are out of my control.

In my next few posts, I’ll write about mania, anxiety, and depression, along with some strategies I use to prevent and mitigate the symptoms.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Being Mentally Ill is Not a Crime

Back when I was in college and having my first manic episode, I wound up in the emergency room. While there, I had to talk to a police officer. Having an encounter with law enforcement is far from unusual for those suffering from mental illness.

Had I not had the support system I did and ended up in the hospital rather than somewhere in public, I could have gone to jail -- for something totally out of my control. The two things that saved me were that I had that support and that I trusted friends and family enough to go to the hospital. Had I been acting as irrational and erratic somewhere else, instead of ending up in the hospital, there is a good chance I would have been arrested.

While I was not arrested, many people with mental illness are treated like criminals due to the symptoms of their mental illnesses. In a recent story on VOX, a mother recounts her experience of trying to get her son to the hospital and having her son shot dead by the police ("A worried mom wanted the police to take her son to the hospital. They shot him").

While one would hope this would be an isolated incident, it's not. According to the Washington Post, almost 500 people with mental illness were shot by the police in 2015 and 2016. While there are a variety of reasons for so many shootings -- decreased funding for public health, lack of training, and policies requiring police (rather than health care workers) to transport involuntary commitments to the hospital, this should still not be happening.

And, unfortunately, there seems to be little accountability for police who decide to resort to deadly force. Police are rarely prosecuted for shooting someone with mental illness, and when they are they are rarely found guilty.

Being shot is extreme, but even being arrested while exhibiting symptoms of mental illness is often unneeded and traumatic. An article on NAMI's website (Jailing People with Mental Illness) reports that two million people with mental illness are jailed each year. While jailed, people with mental illness are unlikely to get the treatment they need, and are likely to get worse.

Because of these problems, some recommend not calling the police on a friend or family member with mental illness unless they are violent and an immediate threat to her/his or another's safety. An interesting read on that topic is, "Mental Illness and Policing," from The Atlantic. The author shares many reasons, including police officers' unfamiliarity with the individual, their lack of training, and the likelihood that the individual may not comply with police instructions.

Having people with mental illness dealt with by the police is clearly a problem. While there is no silver bullet for ending this problem, I found the information below helpful:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon Race Report

My 17th marathon is in the books. Not counting pacing, this was the slowest marathon I have ever run. I was planning on running as easy as possible, walking the water stops, and enjoying the scenery, but my plans changed on race day.

Before the race, I ran into my buddy, Dan, and found out he was pacing the three hour and 21 minute group. I was planning on running more like three hours and 30 minutes, but since I hadn’t seen Dan in forever, I thought it would be nice to catch up with him.

It was nice catching up, and although running at a 7:41 / mile pace was tougher than what I was planning on running, it turned out to be doable. Also, running with Dan and made the race go by quickly. I have placed a lot of races in the past, but I have never run with pace group on my own other than the first five miles of my first half marathon. It was a cool experience being on the other end of things, and Dan definitely pulled me along the last few miles of the race.

I’m a big fan of the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon, and I enjoyed my third time running it as much as my first two experiences with the race. The trail is scenic enough --  a bucolic setting interrupted by a few streams and lakes, and a good amount of tree cover in the beginning and middle parts of the race. I’m always impressed with the aid stations and the food at the end, and this year was no exception. A bonus on the race this year, I saw a crane fly by at about mile 16. Pretty neat.

In the future post I’ll talk about what’s next for me, but I definitely won’t be pursuing a PR in the 50K or completing a 50 mile this season. My foot that is been bothering me started acting up around mile 12, and although it was bearable, I don’t really want to mess with the long runs required for racing at 50K or completing a 50 mile until I know my foot is 100% healed.

Run well.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A New Season

Although summer doesn't officially begin for a bit, today marks a new season for me. The little one's preschool is not in session for the next week, so he and I will be hanging out together until the summer session starts.

Once his summer session starts, we'll be spending a lot of time together. I'll be coaching the Burnsville High School Summer Running program Tuesday through Thursday mornings. On Mondays and Fridays the little one will be with me all day along with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons.

I'm going to be ambitious with my time home this summer. The little one usually takes about a two hour nap after lunch, which leaves me some time to myself. After not posting much on this blog for the last few months, my goal is to start putting out two posts a week this summer. There will probably be more typos than usual since my better half won't be proofing all of them, so please forgive any typographical, grammatical, and syntactic infelicities. My bigger goal is to finish the second draft of a writing project I've been working on by summer's end.

Besides big plans for the little one's nap time, the little one and I are going to do some fun things this summer: trips to the beach, zoos, the library, bike rides and parks should keep us busy this summer. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What's New? An update on life

By special request, the following is an update of what's new (or ongoing) in my life. I'm still amazed out how fast our little one is growing up. He's now twenty-eight months old, and it seems like he's doing or saying something new every day. Here are some of the highlights:

Right now he's really into books and playing with cars, trucks, and some wooden people that go along with an airplane, school bus, and tractor. He also likes playing outside, riding his tricycle and car along with playing on his sand table and watering plants.

I've been staying home twice a week with him and substitute teaching and coaching track the other three days.

Here are some highlights from January and February from him and the family in picture format:

Visit to Laura's parents' condo in Florida.
We also ran the Pensacola Beach 1/2 marathon.
Ice Palace in St. Paul
The little one doing his chores

Hanging out with Brit., Jared, and their three kids

March and April will be coming soon. Thanks for reading.