360 Degrees

It’s remarkable to me that every human being is capable of making a 360 degree turn or change for the better. At any point in our lives and our recovery. And really, the revolution full-circle is an evolution of what each of us is capable of.

In recovery as in life, there are no endpoints or limits, just the potential for continued self-growth. Human beings can be like perennials that bloom over and over throughout our lives when we nurture ourselves, and act kind and are good to ourselves.

I also realized that medication and self-motivation are the twin engines driving recovery for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar. I learned this the hard way when I went on a failed drug holiday in 1992 when I was 27.

Without medication, your efforts are useless because you’re straining against the illness. And having the medication without have the desire to do better is the quickest way to having a life where it’s “one day like any other” spent watching TV in your room.

The song lyrics from the 1980s about how it’s just another night on the edge of town reminds me of the time I spent in the residence in the dangerous apartment complex on yes, the edge of town. A friend and I back then joked that to have fun and amuse ourselves we’d have cockroach races to see which bug got to the other side of the living room first.

I’ll end here by quoting Viktor Frankl from his holocaust memoir Man’s Search for Meaning: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

It gets better. It can get better.

Each of us extending a watering can of hope is what matters most.

Always be hopeful, because hope heals.

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Eating To Live

I’ve reviewed the book Body for Life for Women in the reviews section today.

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP gives sound advice: to control your portions and eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

She is quoted: “You’re talking 15 almonds, 20 peanuts, or 12 walnut halves.”

A sample day’s meal plan includes 2 light string cheese sticks and 1 medium apple as an a.m. or p.m. meal.

You can have six mini healthful meals throughout the day.

This is the best kind of eating plan. A healthful “snack” counts as one of the six meals.

I’m going to experiment with buying the tuna and salmon in the foil packs. I will report back in here what I think of this option. Bumblebee calls their foil packs “SuperFresh” and I wonder if it is.

My contention is that even if for whatever reason you don’t want to buy organic food, you should be loading up on fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they’re organic.

I have fallen down in this regard lately. The goal is not to have perfect habits. The goal is to follow your plan 80 percent of the time. This makes sense as a livable option to me.

The goal is to always do your best and to know that your best will change from day to day.

We each of us need to be kind to ourselves and stop chasing perfection, which is an impossible standard to live up to.

80 percent. Something to think about.

Healthy Habits

I recommend making it as convenient as possible to adopt healthy habits that you can stick to.

Make things happen for yourself instead of making excuses. I used to be friends with a woman and I was willing to help her lose weight yet she kept making excuses for why she couldn’t do what I suggested.

My first recommendation is to buy a small container of Blue Diamond whole and natural almonds. The container can easily fit in a gym bag or a medium-sized woman’s pocketbook.

Everyone knows cramming down nuts can pack on the calories yet I advocate for having a handful before or after a workout or during the day when you’re traveling.

Eat one banana a few times a week too. I realize the foam packaging my organic bananas are wrapped in defeats the purpose of being eco-friendly. Yet as long as I do the right in most other ways I’m okay eating an organic banana packaged this way.

Have five healthful meals every two to three hours throughout the day. This helps regulate blood sugar. If you are able to store a container of peanut butter at work or in your refrigerator at home, have a spoonful of peanut butter when you eat the banana. Slather slices of an apple with peanut butter to regulate the sugar rush from eating the apple too.

In a pinch, ongoing, you can have a Kind bar once a day every so often.

What I’ve done: when the almonds ran out, I stored chocolate-covered almonds in the Blue Diamond container to take with me to the gym or in my travels.

Another secret solution: I bought Silk unsweetened almond milk. I braved drinking some and to my delight it tastes only different not yucky. Plus it has more calcium than regular milk and you can use it in a shake you can make in a blender. Mix some blueberries, 0 fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of organic whey protein powder, and some almond milk in a blender. Voila: a healthful snack.

I know a guy who carries a couple sticks of string cheese and an apple wherever he goes. Guys: there’s no shame in carrying a backpack to store these items in your travels.

Like I say: it’s better to make things happen instead of making excuses.

And making it as convenient as possible to eat healthful foods is the best way to go.

Too Fit To Quit

It’s possible to become “Too Fit To Quit” as a Nike tee shirt proclaims.

The October issue of Allure features an article that echoes what I’ve talked about all along: maintaining a healthy weight not a bone-thin weight.

In the Cindy Crawford interview, “How to Eat Well,” she quoted a doctor who gave her great advice:
“Find your healthiest weight and stay there. And don’t make it your skinniest weight because it’s unsustainable.”

That’s priceless advice for the five bucks it costs to buy the magazine.

How did I always know this? You can strength train and gain muscle yet you’ll still fit into the same size pair of jeans even if you gain five or 10 pounds.

It irks me when a woman sets a single, arbitrary number as her “must-get-to” goal weight. If you’re 5’5″, weighing 125 pounds might not be realistic, particularly if you strength train and gain muscle.

Cindy Crawford admits: “I still don’t love exercising, but I like feeling empowered.” She likes being able to help her husband move a couch.

The more you exercise consistently each week, you’ll fall into a groove because you have more energy and stamina. That’s the trick: even a supermodel resists doing what’s best for her body.

I recommend more than anything developing a fitness routine as part of your wellness practice. Link doing this to a SMART goal: one that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Set a realistic “lifeline” for achieving the goal instead of an impossible restrictive deadline.

The truth is too: when a person eats crap, she feels like crap. And that’s the best motivator for having healthful eating habits. Food choices go hand-in-hand with fitness choices.

We need to treat our bodies with love. We need to love our bodies as workhorses that can help us accomplish our life goals.

I’ll end here by echoing that it’s absolutely true a woman doesn’t have to be bone-thin.

Be proud of your curves. Be proud of your muscles. Use food as fuel.

Moving Toward Instead of Escaping From

The Oprah magazine seems to be getting better.

In his recent column, Dr. Phil addresses the topic I started here last Thursday: having the courage to discover and do “your own thing,” not what you think you should do to escape the hell you’re in.

I will quote the best part of his column: “Escape-based choices are almost always disastrous, because they solve only half the problem. Target-based decisions at least have a shot of being successful, so keep that in mind every time you have a significant choice to make.”

“Don’t be pushed away from what you don’t want; let yourself be pulled toward what you do want.”

Dr. Phil understands that when we find ourselves in a hellish dilemma, we’re “ready to run headlong for anyone, anything or anyplace…without regard for whether it’s better, healthier or even what we want.”

He calls this “ready, fire aim.” It’s the topic of his column in the Oprah magazine out now on newsstands.

In it, by the way, he’s critical of most women’s urge to settle for the wrong guy because they’re afraid of what others will think of them if they’re single.

“Ready, fire, aim” is no way to live.

Each of us deserves better than to cycle through one dead-end scenario after another on the way to finding our true happiness.

The Upside of Hell

I want to talk about the upside of hell: how a situation that is not ideal can turn out to help us move toward our true calling.

I spent 7 years chained to desks in cubicles in offices in buildings. I had two-hour commutes each way for a total of twenty hours spent traveling to and from work. That’s no way to live.

I had hitched myself to the first job that came along to spring myself from the hell of a dysfunctional mental health system. True: I went out of the frying pan into the fire.

It’s 2014: too late in the history of the recovery movement for individuals to be told what they should accept, what is possible for them, or what they should want. Providers aren’t the ones who are supposed to tell us that we have to accept a one-size-fits-all lifestyle.

Only us: we’re the ones who can take control over the direction of our lives. The tools to get there are ours to create and to use. Do you want to only “defy mental illness” and live your life in reaction against the diagnosis? Or do you want to “win at the game of life” and take your rightful place on the playing field by “moving toward” a great life instead of away from hell?

All is not lost though. There can be an upside of the hell, if that is possible. A silver lining exists; you just have to turn the cloud inside-out or upside-down to reveal your own opportunities to move toward wellness instead of escape from illness.

The detours we take can have an upside, even if it’s often in retrospect that we realize the road taken moved us farther away from what excites and energizes us.

We need to find the hidden positive elements; the silver lining in our experiences from our dark days. Often: had we not been in hell, we’d become complacent, and not strive to better ourselves.

The upside of my time spent in offices was that I learned social protocol and interacted with people from different walks of life. My first boss told me to tell callers on the phone “one moment please” instead of “hold on.” That is one of the things I always remembered from that time.

I’ll talk on Thursday about words of encouragement along these lines that I read in the Oprah magazine.

Following Your Bliss

I’m going to share a secret I figured out recently that would’ve made things better early on in my recovery and in my life.

I was reading this on the Internet and it makes perfect sense.

So often, when we lose a job or are dissatisfied with our job, we think the only thing to do is find a new job in the same field. In the 1990s, I was laid off from one job after another: 3 jobs in a row failed to work out.

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I’m guilty of being crackers in this regard too: it wasn’t until I had spent 7 doomed years in the gray flannel insurance field that I realized something had to go.

The chance meeting with a therapist set me on the new course of going to library school so I could get a job I’d like and would be good at.

The wind-up of this story and the takeaway is that you owe it to yourself to take the time upfront to research the kinds of jobs you’d be good at and would like to do. Do this to spare yourself the misery of going down the wrong path.

If you experience burn out or this chosen field turns out not to be worth its salt down the road: you can always have a second or third career.

I’ll talk in next Monday’s blog entry about how even challenging times in our lives can turn out to have benefits.