My personal goals for 2015

As 2014 comes to a close, my mind is moving into 2015 and thinking about the possibilities I have for goals for the coming year.  Here’s a list of some of the things I hope to continue working on and a couple of things I hope to try for the first time.

  • Kinda cliché but I plan to continue working on my weight loss goals.  At the time of this post I weigh 226 pounds, and am hoping that by this time next year I can say I weigh less than 200 pounds even getting to 199.9 pounds would impress me at this point.  I’ve lost 30 pounds already, but ultimately hope to get back down to 125 pounds, but that may take a couple of years.
  • To continue to post things here and maybe even add a few more items that are a bit more of my own original work, I’m thinking I will aim for a minimum of 3 posts in the coming year that aren’t simply relayed articles, but are something I create based on my own experiences.
  • Now that I have a fitbit Flex and can easily track how many steps I take each day I would like to work on increasing my number of steps per day to where I am able to easily reach a minimum of 8,000 steps per day my goal is to get to where I am doing over 10,000 per day on a fairly consistent basis.  My best since getting my Fitbit Flex is about 6,480 steps in a single day, but I only did it once so far, so I feel like striving for 8k steps is a reasonable goal.
  • I have done more knitting and been getting more looms that allow me to knit different things on them, but I hope to knit 6 scarves by Halloween so I can give them to the Hat and Mitten Ministry at my Church.
  • This one is a tad odd, but one goal I have for this year is that by this time next year to have spent $200 on new clothes they can either be brand new or new to me from secondhand stores, but I really need to get new clothes, because it’s been ages since I went clothes shopping and I’m reaching a point where I have more clothes that really need to be replaced then I have stuff that is in really good shape, I think in the past 10 years I’ve bought 2 t-shirts, 3 packs each of bras, underwear and socks, and a pair of winter boots.  Some of the clothes I’m wearing probably should have been re-purposed 10 years ago.
  • In conjunction with my clothing purchasing goal …. I am setting a goal to re-purpose as much as I can of my old clothes, even if it means turning them into cleaning rags or to wipe my hands off when I oil the chain on my bike, my goal is to find as many non-clothing uses for the clothes I am replacing as I can so they aren’t just being tossed into the landfill.  They are in bad enough shape I wouldn’t consider donating them to goodwill, so cleaning rags or maybe stuffing for craft projects might be the best I can do, but I want to use them until they can’t be used any more basically.
  • Continue the work I’ve done at better addressing my health issues both in my mental and physical health.  Like a lot of people I hate going to the doctor, but honestly I’m finding that if I address things when they first become a problem they are easier to treat, and I typically feel better sooner than I do if I wait.  I’m pretty much sick and tired of being sick and tired, so continuing to address and manage my heath care needs is a huge priority for the coming year.  I addressed a couple of things last year and learned that by simply having 2 infected toenails removed, I felt a lot better overall, not only did my toes stop hurting, but the rest of me felt better too.  I also started getting treated for Asthma this past year and it too was something that made a huge impact on my quality of life.  I have other stuff that I want to address, so basically I’m building on what I learned in 2014 when I had those pesky toenails surgically removed.
  • I want to ride my bike at least 10 miles per week once the weather is better for riding, further would be better, but my minimal goal is 10 miles per week.
  • I think my most challenging goal though is to find ways to better distribute items through a ministry I started in 2014.  Collection is going great, but distribution is slow so I want to try to balance that out during the coming year so that folks who need the items will benefit from what has been collected.
  • Read 2 books during 2015 (either e-book or physical bound books)
  • And finally do some more work on researching the history of Warren State Hospital, that got put on the back burner for the most part in 2014, and I would like to dust off that project and see if I can make some more progress on learning about its history, because I found that while researching the history of Warren State Hospital, I was also gaining insight into the history of the mental health system and how people with mental illnesses have been treated in the past and started to better understand why things are the way they are now. So, basically learning about the past is helping me better wrap my head around the present when it comes to the topic of “Mental Health” and all the subtopics found under that heading.
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“Meet Hamlet, Lancaster Co. Courthouse’s newest employee”

Article Link

This June 26, 2014 ABC27 article with video segment talks about the newest employee at the Lancaster County Courthouse a Service Dog name Hamlet trained to aid in decreasing the anxiety of those going through the court process with the primary role being to work in the Mental Health and Substance Abuse courts, but he will have other roles as well when he isn’t in court.

A service dog putting keys into his owner's hand.

A service dog putting keys into his owner’s hand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Vet says he was asked to leave Walgreens because of service dog”

 

Walgreens

Walgreens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article Link

This June 20, 2014 article that includes a video, on the KDFW Dallas website talks about an access issue that a Veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD and uses a Service Dog as part of his treatment, had at a Walgreen’s store.  The article also includes responses from Walgreen’s and statements from the Disabled Veteran in addition to offing some information on what the ADA says about Service Dogs and whether they are required to be dressed in any kind of vest or not.

KDFW

KDFW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day October 10

I have worked on developing and enhancing my list of items I use as personal medicine.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term “personal medicine” let me explain it a bit.  Pat Deegan describes personal medicine as things we do that make us feel better, and reminds us that medication prescribed by our doctor is not the same as personal medicine.  Medication or pills are something you take.  personal medicine is something you do.

Here’s a list of some of my personal medicine items and how I benefit from doing them.

  • Bicycling
    • Riding my bike helps me manage my anxiety by giving me an outlet for some  of the anxious energy
  • Blogging
    • Blogging helps me feel connected to the world around me and at the same time gives me a sense of purpose
  • Playing video games
    • When I play video games, I am able to take a step back from things that may be overwhelming me, and I get an opportunity to regroup before trying to face whatever is overwhelming me again.  I also use gaming as a way to practice social skill in an environment that is less threatening to me then face to face encounters with other people tend to feel.
  • Knitting
    • Knitting helps me in a few ways
      • gives me a creative outlet
      • helps me quiet my mind by doing something that doesn’t need lots of thinking, and I can sort of meditate a bit
      • allows me to do something nice for other people and when I see people smile when I give them something I have knit, I get a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of warmth that helps take the sting out of the rough patches I may be experiencing in my life.
  • Researching
    • Researching or learning more about whatever I happen to have as a pressing question on my mind, helps to quiet my mind, and satisfy my hunger for information.  I will often have a question or idea on my mind that seems to almost take over my brain and make it tough to think about anything else, and I found that simply taking a little time to do a little research into the question  or idea helps me settle my mind by giving me information to satisfy the thoughts.  It’s kind of like if you have a baby that is hungry who is crying and fussy because of being hungry.  Once you feed the baby and satisfy the baby’s hunger, the baby will generally settle down and be more content overall.  In many ways that’s what my mind is like but instead of being hungry for food,  my brain gets hungry for information, and the questions or ideas are like the fussy baby.  I feed my mind information and the fussiness dissipates.  So while I do realize that most people don’t do research for fun, it is something that I not only enjoy, but am able to use to quiet my often noisy brain.
  • Journalling
    • Journaling helps me sort and organize thoughts, feelings or ideas, and gives me a second option for handling the questions and such that often become overwhelming to me if left unchecked.  If I don’t have time to do research right then, sometimes just the act of writing down the question, topic, idea or whatever it is that seems to be taking over my mind, it allows me to in a sense say ok, I recognize that this is on my mind and needs to be further considered, but I’m going to table it and deal with it later when I have more time.  In short, it’s like I’m emptying my brain a little so I can focus on the thing I need to be focused on at that moment.
  • Walking
    • Walking, like bicycling helps me manage my anxiety, my weight, and helps me kind of clear my mind by getting out and enjoying nature a bit
  • Interacting with my Service Dog
    • Interacting can be playing, training, working, or simply cuddling, but the thing all these forms of interaction do for me, is divert my attention off myself and help keep me from dwelling on things.  I also get to explore the world around me much easier than I could on my own.  The world is a very scary place for me, but using my service dog helps me manage the fears and anxiety I have about the world around me that pretty much paralyzes me if I’m left to handle things on my own without my Service Dog’s help.  I get a sense of joy, accomplishment, and am more likely to interact with people around me then I would on my own.  My service dog bridges the gap between  my world and the world around me in a way that in some ways is almost magical, as well as being very difficult to put into words.  She has the ability to make me laugh or smile at times when no human has been able to succeed, she gives me comfort, bolsters my braveness, and even though she is the one being trained, our training sessions give me a sense of accomplishment and pride when I see her begin to master a skill I’ve tried to teach her.  She’s learning to help me, and I’m learning to reach beyond myself.

All the things I listed above are things that help me in many ways, but they all are able to have a positive impact on my mental health and even my physical health and by doing things that impact both my mental and physical health, I feel more like a complete or whole person who is better equipped to face the world around me and everything it has to offer.

Image I'm Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

 

Tough times in my world

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather then post a news article, I’m opting to get a little personal and share some of my recent struggles, but in addition to my struggles, I wanted to share what I’m doing to work through them in hope that others might get ideas of things they can try if they are struggling as well.

Here’s some of the highlights of what has happened with me.

  • During the last week of July 2013 I made the tough decision to Retire my Service Dog, “Tippy”  I saw she was developing cataracts, and she has battled a chronic skin condition for about 5 years, on top of developing bladder stones over the past year.  Initially I thought maybe I could retire her, she could stay with me as a pet and I would just not work her, but I quickly found that going places without her, even those places that I am comfortable being, were extremely difficult to go to.
  • The first week of August 2013 I broke the news that I was retiring Tippy to my friends and family
  • By the end of the 2nd week of August, I realized without a doubt I needed to replace Tippy so I got in contact with the organization I got Tippy from to see if they had any dogs that were close to being ready to be placed, or had washed out of the program because of a refusal to retrieve or something along those lines that wouldn’t be a problem for me with the type of work I needed Tippy’s replacement to do.
  • Things progressed and on September 11, 2013, I dropped off Tippy with the organization, and came home with “Ora” who later got renamed to “Orca” because even though I really like the name “Ora” I kept calling her “Oreo” which is my cat’s name, so for my sanity I added a letter to her name and made it “Orca” which has been simpler for me.
  • September 18, 2013 I had spent the day with my Mom getting some items for Orca, and enjoying a nice meal out in a resteraunt, we had an awesome day.  I got home that evening, and was checking my email since I’d been gone all day, and the first email I spotted was one from a friend telling me that Rachel Freund had passed away that morning after battling cancer for some time.  I was devastated by this news

Since early July 2013, I have been on an emotional roller coaster to put it mildly.  Retiring Tippy has been very difficult, but I feel like it is the right decision, Orca has helped to fill that void but she has lots to learn, so training with her has helped me to keep my sanity on some level.  Losing Rachel, while on some level I’m not surprised, because of the severity of her cancer, I feel a huge sense of loss because she was one of us, she was a mental health consumer, and advocate not only for herself, but for many others, and the world lost one of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  She inspired me to develop an interest in politics and I was one who when I met her really didn’t want anything to do with the political realm.  I still have a lot to learn where politics are involved, but Rachel gave me a good foundation to build on.

So, with all the struggles I’ve had since probably June when I started noticing Tippy’s health was deteriorating and retirement was likely going to need to happen, what have I been doing to help keep myself from sinking too deep into depression or otherwise getting overwhelmed by circumstances?

Well, here’s a list of things I’ve done, maybe it will give others ideas of things they can try as well.

  • Bought a mountain bike
    • I have loved riding a bike since I was a kid, but hadn’t rode in about 10 years.  Retiring Tippy was a seemingly odd motivator to get the bike, but my idea in getting it was that it would not only help with my weight loss goals, but also would allow me to be a little more independent and need to rely less on others at least during the times when the roads aren’t icy.  In addition to being transportation and exercise, it is also something that has proven to be awesome for helping me to manage the stress I’ve been under
  • Training Orca
    • I would be doing this even if I wasn’t stressed, but training with her has helped to keep me from getting stuck inside my head by keeping at least some of my focus outside of myself and on her needs
  • Gaming
    • Gaming has been a HUGE help through everything, there was a period where text just wasn’t making sense to me, so I wasn’t able to do any blogging, but I found that not only YouTube videos that were educational in nature were helpful, but also gaming was as well.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 for years, and over the past couple years have played SimCity, Skyrim, Defiance, and recently started toying with Warframe.  When I was angry or frustrated I seemed to gravitate to Defiance, Warframe, Skyrim and WoW.  When I was feeling empty, hollow or like my head was mush, I found that Sims 3, SimCity and World of Warcraft were helpful.  They let me step back from my struggles and take a break from my emotions for a bit so I could regroup.
  • Socializing
    • This one has been tricky, some days I want to be around people while other days there doesn’t seem to be enough distance between me and other humans, but a few select people who I’ve been able to keep close to me through all of this, they have made me smile, been supportive, allowed me to cry and vent to them, while at the same time allowing me to have a sounding board to bounce my thoughts or ideas off of.  Sometimes we hung out and would joke around, while other times were more serious in nature, but regardless of the tone of our gathering, these folks played a huge role in helping me keep things in perspective and to them I am grateful.
  • Exercising
    • Yes I said that dreaded word …. exercising.  I have come to realize that exercise can be anything from doing housework to going for a walk or bike ride.  Being physically active has been a huge thing for me as well, it has helped prevent me from staying in bed all day (Orca helps with that as well) I feel better emotionally when I’ve been active, it helps me to clear my head and refocus myself, while at the same time burning calories.  I tend to feel more relaxed when I’ve been physically active then I do when I laid around the house doing close to nothing physically active.
  • Cleaning my home
    • Okay another dreaded thing with that one, but for me I found that doing housework, even though I’m not a huge fan of doing the cleaning, the result of having things look less cluttered and less overwhelming visually helps me with my anxiety and has an added benefit of keeping me physically active.

So I guess you could say that for me I’ve had to focus on balancing my need to process emotions out by countering them with things that keep my mind and body active.  I have days that are horribly difficult to keep going and do stuff, but then other days it’s like I can’t wait to go for a walk with Orca and do some training with her.  I also found that what works great one day may not work well the next day, so there is a bit of trial and error involved with the things I’ve tried.  I think for me the key has been not allowing myself to give up, and balancing emotional overload with positive healthy activities.

Now that I’m able to comprehend what I read once more, blogging and web design are also helping me to not get stuck inside my head,  I’ve had a lot happen in a short period, on top of the anniversary of one of the toughest times in my life, which always causes me to struggle in September, since the year that terrorist flew planes into the twin towers.  That year, I had lost my job, was on the verge of becoming homeless, and was struggling with some severe mental health issues among which was a conversion disorder that manifested itself as blindness.  that fateful morning of 9/11 I was attending a school for the newly blind where I was pretty much learning how to navigate the world around me without the ability to see.  Medically my eyes were fine, but my brain was so overloaded with stress that to deal with the overload, it had to shut something down and in my case it was my vision.  It was because of the conversion disorder that I had to quit my job, because I wasn’t working I lost my apartment, and at the same time was hospitalized for mental health reasons.  I was at a very low point, and even though overall things have been better since that year, I always get kind of moody in September because of the anniversary of the year I nearly lost everything and then had to deal with emotions surrounding the well-known terrorist attack on 9/11.  So for me, September is a tough month to begin with, and this one has had both sadness and joy compounding things.

So yeah doing the things I listed above have truly been things that helped me keep my sanity through this tough month.  None of them are overly huge, but sometimes small things can make the biggest difference and allow me to succeed.

Thank you to all my readers for being patient with my lack of posts and downtime here on Pennsylvania Mental Health Issues, it means a lot to me that folks would stick around even though I had to step back and stop blogging for a bit.  I feel like I’m starting to get my mojo back though with blogging, so hopefully I’ll get back on track again and it will be blogging as usual so to speak 🙂

As promised a pic of Orca

“Orca” is a year and a half old, mixed breed consisting of lab, cocker spaniel, beagle and poodle.  She is starting to fit right into my home.  She has basic training, but we need to work on custom training at this point with her primary work duty being to focus on bonding with me at this point.  Each day she is a little livelier then the day before, and we are starting to communicate better.  Especially now that I changed her name slightly.  Normally I wouldn’t change a dog’s name especially if they are responding well to their name, but this gal was named “Ora” and I kept referring to her as “Oreo” which is my cat’s name, so I though simply adding a letter to her name so it flows a little different might help without causing her too much confusion, so “Ora” has become “Orca” below is a pic I took of her on Sept. 12, 2013 when we were cuddling together.  This is actually one of my favorite pics of her so far.

Orca cudles withe her handler

Cuddle time for a tired Service Dog in Training and equally tired Handler

Wanted to update folks about my situation

I know my last post might have raised some concerns, I do want folks to know I’m OK, aside from feeling emotionally drained, and wanting off this emotional roller coaster.  I really am doing well under the circumstances.  Today though I will be saying goodbye to my current Service Dog “Tippy” who will be officially retired as of this afternoon, and will be meeting Tippy’s replacement who I hope will be able to work as well for me as Tippy has over the years.

I plan on posting a picture of Tippy’s replacement so folks here can kind of meet her.  The dog in my avatar here on WordPress is a picture of Tippy that I took about 8 years ago not long after she entered my life, and opened up the world to me.

I appreciate your patience while I go through this, and I hope you know that I do plan on returning to my usual blogging routine once things settle a bit.  I’m considering returning to my usual blogging routine before the 20th, but I’m not fully committed to that idea just yet, it will depend on how things go in the next couple days.

Here’s a link to a video taken on Sept. 10, 2013 of Tippy …. the audio needs some work, but this is truly and example of what not to do the day before you are going to give up your dog ….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNQjCqT_uNM

The story behind the blue paint is that we intended on dipping one of her paws into paint, and then using it like a stamp to stamp her paw print on canvas, but we had multiple failed attempts and reached a point where Tippy had blue pain on all 4 paws, so we opted to have her simple walk around with her painted paws on paper and canvas to see if we could get some good paw prints that way …. she seemed to like that method much better than us painting her paw or controlling when she could pick up or put down a paw.  I however do NOT think I’ll try this again, because in all honesty it’s quite messy and even though Tippy got a bath afterwards, her paws still have a blue tint to them despite my best efforts.

I would like to note that the paint used in this odd project was clearly labeled “Non-toxic” and it is a water based paint, so it was something that I would even feel comfortable allowing a young child to paint with…. though I’m guessing since children don’t have fur that odds are good they wouldn’t have blue-tinted hands when they were done washing up afterwards.

It did break the depressed feeling I had yesterday when I woke up and even now when I think about it, it does bring me a hint of amusement as I think about how odd the idea really was.  I’m pretty sure that my impulsiveness (I have ADHD) overrode any degree of common sense that might have prevented me from painting Tippy yesterday, but even with that I will have one heck of a memory to remember from her last 24 hours with me so while it’s going to be interesting to explain why she has blue paws, I feel like in a warped sort of way it was a really good thing that we did this with her, it helped me and Tippy got some extra play time in the process.

I should also note that Tippy has been fine since the painting session yesterday aside from her now blue-tinted paws which should fade or grow out over time.

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