Mind Blossoming

The title Mind Blossoming came to me right now as a way to describe what happens when we get rid of the old, the outdated thoughts gathering dust in our heads.

It starts when we assess what’s holding us back and have the courage to confront what we need to do to move ahead.

Winter is a time to hibernate so it’s perfect to stay inside and get clear with yourself about the goals you have that you can start in the spring.

Spring, to me, is the ideal time to start something new. Winter is the ideal time to discard what a person no longer needs in their life.

As soon as you clear out your head you’ll be tempted to fill it up again with thoughts. How can each of us be able to live without obsessing over things?

It comes down to self-acceptance. For a lot of us, we’re used to beating ourselves up over our imagined faults and shortcomings. Winter is three months and three months is too long to continue in this dark vein of negativity.

I recommend in my book Flourish keeping a Feelings/Facts log. Write down each feeling you have about something going on in your life. On the next line, write down a fact to counter what you feel.

Feelings are real and true yet sometimes they cloud over a different truth. Title the first line feeling: and title the next line Fact: and go down the page line-by-line.

At the end, it should be easier to think more clearly about the possibilities of your life not the perils of what you feel is going on.

I’d like to hear from readers if you try this exercise and whether it works out.

Next week I will return with a guest blogger. A best friend of mine, Myung, has graciously allowed me to publish here a couple of essays he wrote for talks he gave to peers.

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Spring Cleaning

The first column I had published in a newspaper was an article on doing spring cleaning in January to beat the winter blues and blahs. It was published in 1990: the start of the new decade.

I suggested that a person clear the cobwebs from her mind as well as from her closet. That the junk piles of our minds get cluttered over the years. And it can be scary to let go of a thought or a pattern of thinking that has become ingrained.

It’s true I recommend starting the process of change in January first by clearing out the past. Rather than start in winter, I recommend making the actual changes in early Spring after a person has readied herself to do so.

By the way, there’s nine weeks to spring so it will be here sooner than we think.

I do recommend carting your cast-offs to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or other local thrift shop in January to clear the way for new things coming in in the spring.

My ethic that I’ve adhered to for the last 10 years is simple: when one new thing comes in my apartment I get rid of or donate one old thing.

This “in/out” devotion keeps your closets and drawers from becoming graveyards of unused stuff. You shouldn’t have to move around endless objects you don’t use just to get to the things you do need.

I also recommend the “ease of use” mantra: a storage item shouldn’t be more trouble than it’s worth for a person to use it. I nixed buying a storage ottoman because it would have been a hassle to open it up a certain way all the time just to reach into its cavernous inside to get everything stored there.

The Container Store sells Oskar 2-piece boxes in gray, turquoise, green and pink. They’re only $19.99 for the set and can be recycled when they get old and beat up.

Spring cleaning is also a mindset and I will talk more on Thursday about clearing the junk out of our heads.

Spring-O-Meter

I wanted to write about how changing your perception can change your life. Thinking positively is possible if you decide to shift your focus to what’s going right in your life and in the world.

If you focus on the negative, you won’t have the ability to change your life because you’ll be stuck in an endless tape loop of negativity.

I’m going to give an analogy that is corny yet it is quite effective. My friend thought this up so I can’t take the credit. He told me: “There’s ten weeks until spring.” So I decided to keep a Spring-O-Meter to count down each week until spring arrives.

In reality, the winter is the exact length of time that other seasons are. It can seem longer because it’s colder and it snows often. So as far as seasons go, it’s not my favorite. My favorite time is the late summer into early fall.

Thus I realized if I focused on the weeks until spring arrived I would be able to be proactive in the winter.

Another truth comes courtesy of a Beyonce quote:

“If you live your life with kindness and give other people a great energy, that beauty and great energy come back to you.”

You’ve most likely met a person whose rudeness or other negative behavior is like a dead weight when you meet them: it sinks you down right away and you feel oppressed just being around them.

I don’t want to be that dead weight. As winter continues, I seek in my blogs to uplift and inspire readers throughout these cold, cruel months.

Take heart. Spring is soon to be only 9 weeks away. Hibernate in the winter and be OK with this fallow period. Spring will come again and with it the chance to bumble about outside.

I’ll write in here next week about doing spring cleaning in January to beat the winter blues and blahs.

Fallow Periods

You can’t write the ending of the story of the your life before you’ve started that story.

You can’t give up on yourself at any point in your life regardless of whether or not you’ve achieved the things you wanted to by that point.

It’s entirely possible to live to 75 or 80 years old if you exercise, eat right, limit alcohol intake and don’t smoke cigarettes and don’t use street drugs. The chance of a woman living to 85 years old shoots up 74 percent if she follows this advice.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle enables you to have “life in your years” no matter the number of “years in your life.”

I tell readers not to give up because we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future. And where we are today in our lives doesn’t determine where we’ll be in the future. The road in recovery and the road to success isn’t straight and narrow and doesn’t run a predictable course. Our lives are often long and winding to get to where we want to be.

Have faith that things can change if only you change your perception of what you can do.

I continue here from the last blog entry because I know positive change is possible no matter how old you are, no matter what your “thing” in life is, and no matter what happened to you in the past.

The secret to my success is that I wouldn’t be defeated. Even when I failed, I wasn’t down for the count because I realized I could do something differently to achieve my goal or I could change the goal I had to one that was better and could be achieved.

Is it possible most people get defeated and give up when they fail? If that sounds like you, you can change your tactic. This involves not giving yourself a restrictive deadline by which to achieve a goal. It involves setting goals to achieve things in your life that are consistent with your priorities, your values, and who you are. Acting false to yourself to get ahead in life will cause ill health.

You might ask how do I know the tide can turn in a person’s life at any point in time?

Here’s the proof:

Ever since I was a teenager, I did some kind of exercise. Starting with simple exercises I did on the floor in my bedroom. Then at various gyms from the time I was 27 to the time I was 34. I turned 39 and joined the current gym yet only did the treadmill, Zumba or Pilates for about 4 years.

At 45 going into 46, I suddenly decided I had to do strength training. It wasn’t until I was 45 years old that I became a hardcore fitness buff.

This is proof that things can change for the better at any point in a person’s life. From 39 to 44, I did the treadmill, Zumba or Pilates sporadically. Then, for about a year, I didn’t exercise.

Then, bingo, at 45 I started to power lift. Within one year of training, I dropped one pant size. That’s not the point. The point is you might have been a couch potato. You might be at a point in your life where it’s inconceivable that you can get there from here. It might seem like it’s impossible to do what you want to do because you don’t __________________ (fill in the blank) or you haven’t ever _______________(fill in the blank) done this thing before.

Bollocks. You can do these things, no matter whether you’ve done them before or whether your fallow period has lasted years and years instead of just three weeks or three months.

Fallow periods are necessary. Woodshedding is necessary and I talked about this in the first couple of blog entries here.

I’ll end here by telling readers how to get the faith that you can turn things around at any point in your life.

You take action in your mind when you’re not able to take action in your life. You write down a 5-year plan and list in detail what you want to achieve. You refer to the plan as often as you need to. If you can’t tackle your ultimate goal right now, you tackle a goal you can absolutely positively achieve instead.

Starting with a simple goal and achieving it can give you the confidence to achieve a goal that’s slightly beyond your reach.

This involves taking action every day in the direction of your dream(s). This “action” can be as simple as reading books on the topic. It can be as simple as reading about how successful people got to where they are in life. It can involve doing nothing when you’ve reached a plateau and then one day getting so upset with doing nothing that you take action.

I went to library school with a woman who was in her early seventies. At a time in her life when most people are slowing down, she decided to obtain a Masters degree.

Take a tip from this woman: it’s not ever too late to change your life for the better.

That’s where the story begins: where you are today. And today isn’t the end of your life, even if you’re 35 or 50 or 65.

Trust me, everyone feels like they’ve failed at some point. Even a 22 year old woman can feel like she hasn’t achieved anything even though she has the rest of her life ahead of her

I’ll end here by telling you to think differently.

Envision having a better life. Know that you’re in the driver’s seat even when you have to make a pit stop or take a detour. As hard as life can get, always keep in your mind your vision of your life’s purpose.

Refrain from writing the ending of your story before you’ve even started the narrative.

Optimal Wellness Challenge Finale

I realize it was challenging to start a wellness routine in December with two holiday nights.  Yet it’s instrumental to do this at some point rather than not do it at all.

It might surprise readers that I don’t eat a lot of food to begin with.  Or this could be clear from viewing my photos.

On Monday, January 5th I started again with my optimal wellness goal of eating healthful food 80 percent of the time.

One thing I recommend is to eat small healthful meals every 2 to 2 1/2 hours to keep from getting hungry, to regulate your blood sugar, to maintain your energy level throughout the day.

I recommend eating a Kind bar to tide a person over until their next full meal.

Also: I have a surprising suggestion: eat fruit when it’s in season so you can change up the kind of fruit you eat and not get bored eating the same fruit all the time. I recommend this because eating the same food all the time could give you palate fatigue where you don’t want to eat that food anymore.

I used to cook on my own and eat salmon twice a week.  I had salmon so often that I started to eat it only once a week. This is where Omega-3 fish oil gel caps come in handy when you can’t get all your Omega-3 RDA from food.

Thus I’m of a different mind than a lot of people who push fad diets on vulnerable individuals or who champion rigid, hard-to-follow dietary “laws” or restrictions or eating plans.

I say: eat healthfully 80 percent of the time as often as you can. Budget in a treat once a week.

This is my contention because I’m going to tell you something surprising too: I rarely eat whole grains except for whole grain cereal in the morning and sometimes brown rice and I have whole wheat pasta when I cook pasta.

I think that old rule of eating 6 to 11 servings of whole grains per day was ridiculous.  I would say stick to have two servings of whole grains per day and always before 3:00 p.m.  This is what Pamela Peeke, M.D. advises in her book Body for Life for Women.

It’s common sense to take the guidelines offered and research which habits make sense for you to adopt and which ones you can discard.

The last surprising thing I will end here with is that one week, or two weeks of not adhering to the 80 percent rule isn’t going to throw your health in the toilet. Committing to starting again to eat healthfully is what counts.

We all have fallow periods where we don’t always nurture our bodies or our minds in an optimal way.  This is to be expected and planned for. This might last a few days, for weeks, or even longer.  The goal is to not get discouraged. In my next blog entry here I will talk about my own 7-year fallow period (yes 7 years.)

My optimal wellness challenge failed yet I’m not defeated. I’ve started on January 5th again.

Remission And Recovery

Read about how early schizophrenia intervention in the prodromal stage changes the nature of the illness.

I’m a big fan of treating individuals in the prodromal stage of schizophrenia.

The anti-psychiatry nonsense that you should want to live in a psychotic state because it’s a natural life experience reinforces stigma.

I say: treat the symptoms immediately to stop the person from becoming permanently disabled. Every other female blogger I’ve followed over the years (one with 500 followers) whose treatment was delayed too long has suffered ongoing damage.

The Harvard Mental Health Letter of November 2008 stated that the earlier you treat schizophrenia with medication, the more likely the drugs will be effective. The longer you wait to get treated, the worse the outcome. The earlier you’re treated, you’ll require a lower dose of medication most likely, offsetting the side effects.

Having symptoms is not a walk in the park. The so-called anti-psychiatry crowd with their “alternatives to psychosis treatment” are engaging in practicing medicine without a license when they claim to have effective “treatments” like taking a psychotic person into a quiet room and talking to them gently.

Early intervention programs that treat individuals who are in the prodromal stage of schizophrenia have proven effective in halting full-blown psychosis and the imminent disability that occurs from delayed treatment. The PIER early intervention program in Maine was started easily 10 years ago and it’s still going strong.

The choice is clear to me: if you have the opportunity to stop the symptoms completely, do this as soon as possible. Pronto. Immediately. Without delay.

Yes: I’m a fan of the medical model: of using medication to treat schizophrenia for individuals that need medication to achieve remission or at least a better shot at recovery.

Taking medication is how I got to be in remission. Research indicates 25 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia can achieve a spontaneous remission without needing to continue medication.

I’m not one of those 25 percent. And if you ask me the goal in schizophrenia treatment should be remission. As a psychiatrist told me years ago: “Total symptom relief is the only acceptable outcome for you, Chris.” He wasn’t kidding.

Being in remission or at least having minimal symptoms is in my estimation as equally important as getting to recovery. I’m not a fan of the current “consumer recovery movement” with its anti-medication zealots advising vulnerable people to accept not taking meds and living with psychosis.

No one I know who went on a drug holiday to discontinue their schizophrenia medication achieved a spontaneous remission. They wound up sicker than ever and doomed to collecting SSI.

This choice is clear to me too: that when you’re able to achieve remission by taking medication the future is wide open. Your life certainly becomes easier than if you have to struggle every day with recurring symptoms. Why suffer “major ongoing episodes” if you don’t have to?

Early intervention:

Yes. Yes. And yes.

My First Book News

My life’s goal was always to publish my memoir.

Now Left of the Dial is available on Amazon and in two months will be available elsewhere.  A Kindle e-book version will be available shortly. You can install a Kindle app on your iPad to download Kindle books to your iPad.

My signature story that I dramatize in the memoir is that getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

One person who read the book liked its “verve” and “graphic detail.” Unlike every other author of a schizophrenia memoir, I wrote a first-person account that uses a sense of humor throughout the narrative.

Life with schizophrenia is not ever easy yet there is hope because most people diagnosed with schizophrenia can and do recover.  You’re in for a treat when you read my book.

After the sale of Left of the Dial, I expect one or all two of my self-help books to go on sale in about a year.

Like I’m fond of saying in here, try not to believe the people who would hate or judge you for being different or for having a diagnosis.  Always: believe in yourself even if no one else does.  The only power the stigma has over you is the power you give it.

Again: Left of the Dial is on sale now on Amazon.

Thank you all my loyal and treasured readers of this blog and of my other blogs over the years.

I do what I do to give each and every one of you hope that you can do more than just recover: you can flourish just like people who do not have mental health challenges.

My motto is: “It’s not enough to be good when you can be great.”

Why be ordinary when you can excel?

Don’t give up the fight to have a life of your  own choosing.

Dream. Believe. Achieve.