Strong is the New Beautiful

Strong is the New Beautiful by Olympic gold-medal skier Lindsey Vonn is the number-one fitness book I’ve ever read.

I urge you to go out and buy this book or install it on a device.

Turn to page 156 for this gem alone which makes it worth buying the book:

“The more muscle mass you have, the less likely you are to die early from any cause, according to research.”

Lifting weights twice a week and doing cardio once or twice a week can be all that’s needed to get a person in peak condition mentally and physically.

You might be turned off by the photos of Lindsey Vonn without clothes on. Yet if you ask me she poses that way to show women of all shapes and sizes that we’re beautiful just the way we are.

After winning Gold, Lindsey Vonn interacted with celebrities and started to question if she was beautiful because she had a muscular build. She wasn’t stick-thin like the women who are movie screen idols.

What Lindsey Vonn wrote bears repeating here because I’m living proof of what she speaks: you can gain a few pounds from lifting weights and drop a dress size.

Indeed, I didn’t lose any weight when I started strength training. However, I did drop one pant and one skirt size.

I’ve fit into the same size pant and skirt for over 5 years now. No–I didn’t lose weight I actually gained a few pounds. Yet I fit into a smaller size.

The secret is to not give up after only two months. It takes one year at least of consistent, dedicated strength training to see significant results that will last.

The number on the scale really shouldn’t be a woman’s concern in this regard.

As it is, I’m muscular not skeletal thin and I prefer to have muscle.

This summer I will be posting here photos of meals and recipes that readers can try at home.

It’s Greenmarket season–my favorite time of year.

I will also be posting lists of exercise motivation tips and other fitspo as it’s called for fitness inspiration.

Self-Advocacy

You shouldn’t ever apologize for your existence.

You shouldn’t feel that your diagnosis limits you forever.

I coached a guy who found out one of his top forty careers might be a race car technician.

I’m going to be excoriated for telling readers that we can’t always listen to what so-called experts advise us is the right thing to do.

They haven’t met us and aren’t living our lives. Only you and I know what’s the right thing to do on any given day.

You’re an equal partner with your treatment provider(s). You deserve and have the right to have input into the decisions being made about your life.

Today circa 2017 we have more options and better options for what we can do in recovery. If no option exists, you can create an option for yourself.

The Aveeno skincare advertisement gets it right: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Each of us can create a life of our own design.

It’s our right to be self-advocates. You aren’t any longer relegated to being a passive recipient of services.

That’s why I always detested using the word consumer to describe a person. You consume soft drinks. You don’t consume healthcare.

I’m going to end here with this:

You diagnosis doesn’t limit your choices forever.

Yes you can.

 

College Mental Health Center Crisis

Hi everyone,

I’ve proofread the manuscript for my second book and will send it over to my literary agent this week. This accounts for my time away from this blog.

My agent sent me a link to a news article about the college mental health crisis on campuses across America. The situation is more dire than it has ever been for young adults.

In my memoir Left of the Dial two short scenes detail my experiences with trying to get mental health help at my college–The College of Staten Island in New York City in fall 1986 and spring 1987.

The first time I met with a woman at the Student Life Office for two times. I didn’t click with her and couldn’t articulate exactly why I thought my life was falling apart.

This was in fall 1986 one year before I had the breakdown. I had the psychic intuition that something was not right so sought help.

After not clicking with the woman a year later in 1987 shortly before I graduated I went to the mental health center on campus and spoke with a therapist for one half hour meeting.

He told me in these exact words that he couldn’t help me because I was graduating and after that I was on my own. No kidding. Those were his exact words.

The mental health center counselor didn’t give me a referral to a therapist in the community. Apparently he “diagnosed” me in his mind¬† as just another student nervous about her prospects in life post-school.

Just four months later I wound up in a hospital.

The news article I’m going to link to now details that students in need of help are asked if it’s an emergency when they contact their school’s mental health center. The students have no idea what constitutes an emergency and whether what they’re going through is minor or serious.

One young woman interviewed in the article attempted suicide because her wait to see a counselor at her school was too long. As a result, she lost her job, her off-campus apartment, and her ability to get a pilot’s license.

This is no joke. What if I had gotten help in fall 1986 when I was in the prodromal that is the first stage of my illness? Would I not have wound up in a hospital?

It appalls me that 30 years later–yes 30 years later–nothing has changed at colleges and universities in their approach to helping students with mental health issues.

It has only gotten worse.

Here’s the article on the college mental health center crisis.

(The link might take you to Twitter so I hope it goes through okay.)

5 Benefits of Taking SZ Medication

Here I’d like to talk about something I referred to in my employment talk at the 2016 NAMI-New York State educational conference.

For those of us who could benefit I want to offer a positive perspective on taking SZ medication.

In my firsthand experience and from observing others it’s my firm belief that most people diagnosed with SZ need to take medication to have a better chance at living a full and robust life.

Taking medication can give a person a competitive advantage in succeeding at setting and achieving goals in the real world.

Here now I’d like to talk about the benefits of taking medication for those of us who need to:

Side effects can be managed.

As soon as I switched the dose time to taking the tiny dose in the morning and the high dose at night–voila–I was wide awake every single day and no longer falling asleep on the job.

You’re in control.

I guy I love told me that he feels “calm, in control, and focused” when he takes medication.

Exceptional M.D.s and therapists can be found treating mental health conditions.

You can go on the Resources to Recover Website to view the directory of family-endorsed providers in the NY-NJ-CT-MA area.

True mind freedom is possible.

With clarity of thought and balanced moods it’s easier to live your life.

People who take medication can have better health and live longer.

One study revealed that peers who took medication were better able to stay on top of their health and actually lived longer.

A friend of mine with SZ is now 72 and he’s taken medication since he was 13.

On Thursday I’ll return with details about how the employment talk went and things I talked about. It was a smashing success.

 

Thinking Out of the Box

For going on years now thinking out of the box has become a cliche.

I finally figured out why I was able to think I could get a job and be successful in 1990 when no one else with an MH challenge seemed to be employed or be able to hold a job.

Quite simply I didn’t want to be placed in a box.

The diagnosis in the end wasn’t stigmatizing at all–it was the mental health staff’s perception that the diagnosis limited me that threatened to limit me–not any actual limitation I might have had.

Perception is often everything. It clouds the truth like an internal or external roadblock.

Yet we have the choice to disregard what others tell us to believe about ourselves: that there’s no hope; that no one can recover; that we have to collect SSI and live in poverty in a dangerous apartment complex on the edge of town for the rest of our lives.

How did I have the guts not to swallow the snow job I was given about what I could do? I looked around. I saw the other patients had warmed those chairs in groups for two, three, or four years. I saw patients get addicted to crack living in the residence.

Quite simply I knew that I was the only one who had a vested interest in seeing me succeed. That–and oh–my Conservative mother booted my ass to get a job.

Yes I had family support–I had a family that didn’t abandon me when I was diagnosed. That is all too rare for young people diagnosed with a mental health condition.

How does this relate to finding the career we love?

You and I aren’t going to be happy and healthy living another person’s life.¬† We’re going to get sick stuffing down our gifts and talents to please others and conform to what they think is an acceptable way to live our lives.

It’s true–research going back years ago proves–that a significant number of creative people also have mental health challenges.

I’ll talk in the coming blog entry about environment-about how where you work can make a difference in whether you succeed in recovery. And about how I jumped out of a limiting box and you can too.

Mental Health Treatment – My Experience

I was researching recovery topics on my own–and on the Internet– since 2002. As far back as 2002 I learned that any rehab program has to be time-sensitive and goal-focused.

I stand by my assertion that if you’ve had spectacular success being involved in a traditional day program or traditional community mental health system–that you’re the rare lucky person in this regard.

To remember is to understand–and I have a photographic memory.

I know what it’s like to be told you won’t be able to go very far–that because you’re “quiet” you should be shunted into the lowest level of groups at a day program.

What if you’re observing others carefully? What if you’re listening to them and getting ideas from them about what you can do in your own life?

What if you’re not a garrulous chimpanzee who chatters on and on, monopolizing the group or not giving particularly insightful feedback?

I tell you peers not to give in to feeling unworthy simply because staff reinforce that a personality trait is abnormal.

Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking circa 2009. This attorney vividly and forcefully argued her case that listening–though hardly valued in mainstream society–should be a coveted skill and that being “quiet” is an asset.

The other book title gets it right: Listening is an Act of Love.

Heaven knows we don’t need any more loud-mouthed orange chimpanzees or any other kind of babbling bobble-heads speaking on our behalf or simply speaking out loud because they love the sound of their own voice.

Here’s what I would tell any mental health staff:

Not to judge a patient solely by whether he or she is helping the group–to try to envision whether the group is helping the patient.

I was literally shell-shocked–lost my voice–when I was told I couldn’t look for a job, that I had to continue in another day program long-term.

Okay: we need to set and enforce clear boundaries.

Yet I maintain that when mental health staff make these snap judgments about us the silent unconscious message they’re giving us is that they’re not interested in getting to know us as people first.

It’s ironic that for so long peers were at once identified by our symptoms and that our personality traits were labeled as pathology. How could we win this duel?

There’s a better way to treat people. It’s called using the Asset Model. I use the Asset Model when helping people find the jobs they might love to do and would be good at.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about The 3 Benefits of Using the Asset Model.

The Triangle of Mental Health: Practical Career Counseling

What I’m against:

Having women be told they should get a job as a secretary or teacher simply because they’re female.

Telling someone with a TBI / traumatic brain injury that he can only work as a janitor or custodian.

My OVR counselor at the state agency for individuals with disabilities right off the bat told me I could go to school to be an elementary school teacher.

Nope. I didn’t ever want to do that even when I obtained my B.A. in English in two years before I met her. Nope.

Luckily I convinced her that I could work in an office.

The true career counseling I received was in the summer of 1996 when I met a therapist who turned out to also be a career coach. I told him I was in danger of losing yet another office job and he gave me practical vocational assessment.

This therapist I saw only five times yet he is the one who told me that I’d be good having a job as a librarian.

From this experience I always wanted to help peers find their right livelihood and find the jobs that would be a good fit with their personality and gifts and talents.

People I’ve created resumes for have gotten job interviews that lead to job offers.

What I’m for:

Using personality assessment tools to help a person discover a better career option.

Goal-focused and time-sensitive and practical rehabilitation methods that give peers real-life skills to succeed in society.

Not having to rely on the services of a community mental health system where the staff reinforce that no one can recover:

If they got into this field to help people why does it seem those staff don’t care about whether they can help us recover? Why don’t they even try to help us recover? Are they satisfied to spin their wheels not going anywhere?

I will search in my computer archives for two news articles I wrote at HealthCentral to see if I can repurpose them here. The articles focused on social skills training and cognitive remediation.

Stay tuned because in September I will return to a focus on employment..