Seeking easier ways to control my moods

As I am typing I am sitting here listening to an internet jazz station through my new telephone. It’s an Android device and was available for a reasonable price. Part of the beauty is that there is no plan. As for the television commercials about the joy of upgrading your phone, who are those people kidding? It’s all about which corporation gets your money and how dearly you cherish having XYZ business in your pockets.

I type my blog using a desktop computer that I will probably be replacing with another desktop. The idea of typing long periods of time on a phone has never appealed to me. Desktop computers are better for watching movies and other media than a small screen.

I went to the state fair on Friday afternoon with co-workers escorting a group of people receiving services from our agency. Then I went back Saturday evening with a friend and the difference was incredible. People were packed wall to wall such that I suggested finding a couple of quieter places at the fair where we could talk without having to shout at one another.

Now since the title of this piece is about easier ways to control my moods, you’re wondering how all these things relate to another. I am ingesting a different group of chemicals in my body than before. At different times I take anti-depressants but I always advocate looking at other means of adjusting our thinking and our moods. It’s very likely there are non-medical supports that can be enormously effective in this area. I mentioned a few a few. Working, finding a meaningful role, listening to music and problem solving. Not to mention exposing your wonderful body to the sun and reacting or not reacting to crowds.

Sometimes you may encounter people that the scientific community calls assholes. Other times you may strike up conversations about phones and which apps work for you and find that the sour feeling from that negative encounter has been greatly reduced. The music from the phone provides entertainment with the jarring sound of commercials. It’s pleasant, relaxing and just what I need to refresh my thoughts. I had been listening to This American life but then discovered I had heard the stories several times previously. How often do they play these re-runs>?

Another mood regulator is opening the blinds. It was way too dark in here. When I leave to do to work, the blinds are closed. When I return home, there may be enough sunlight remaining for two hours. It’s difficult to change that routine but I need to build in greater flexibility especially if I am admitted to graduate school. Even though the classes will only be held on weekends, there is bound to be work needed to be completed between sessions. Hence we have another opportunity to regulate mood by taking a class, taking on a new challenge and adjusting my schedule. All kinds of ways to change my moods. This is what I have done, in increments. But you might apply it in your own life.  Whether you add a medication to your regimen is up to you.



A yoga kiss me so we can heal day

For several years I have though about the idea of whether I should do yoga. And every time I think of it, yoga sounds like something painful that barefoot hippie women practice. Today I was listening to the NPR program Piano Jazz in which a wonderful young bass player was improvising with a piano player.

On Facebook I had received an invitation from kt rusch who plays African inspired music.  I had responded that maybe I would attend. Then I decided at the last minute that I would attend. I had kissed a friend who I find very attractive and sent her on her way. She was a smoker and I had decided she was not the right one but today my body was saying something else.

So, yes, it was time to take my mind off her. As luck would have it, I arrived in time to take a quick half hour introductory session at the yoga studio. And I ended up talking with the woman on the mat next to me who was a recently retired nurse. She used to work at the same hospital as me. I felt like kissing her, too.

The most surprising thing was that a young black man had run out of the yoga studio before me howling in pain. He came to the group with his wife who had convinced him that he should do this. So, I’m going to be able to do something that a guy half my age couldn’t do? C’mon Kenyatta, you must be delusional. I didn’t do all of the poses like the rubber-limbed teacher but I was close enough for a local oddball.

In fact I was good enough to sign up for tomorrow’s introductory class. I will let you know if I get kissed again. After all, that is the point of all this flexibility, isn’t it?


Casualties, new friends and Nia= purpose

I have been reflecting on this past year which included some very dramatic changes. I moved twice, and took on two new jobs. I had a brief romance that taught me a lot.

Five consumers of the agencies where I was working passed away which I took personally.I helped arrange and attended the farewell of one  person where I worked. One person died a few weeks after I had left the the agency but I can see him as though we had spoken yesterday. One person who I believed was about to die suddenly hung in there, which taught me about the human spirit.

I became more involved in the mental health system, by taking a position in “the belly of the beast”, the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex.  I was briefly a part of discussions with people who had a lot of grievances with the Mental Health Complex.

I became a payee which was horrible. One of my friends at work warned me but I did not listen. And speaking of work, I went from usually being in the minority to being in the majority. To be honest I think a lot of my co-workers at one agency said, who in the hell is this character? And what is his position? The ground work that that was supposed to be done had not been laid to prepare them for me. I had trouble getting along with many of them partly because they are younger than me. Now I can truly say I like most of them. And I can understand the others. We have shared cupcakes, which is most important. I an certain that at least a few of them are consumers.

I went through my usual shifts in behavior resisting meds, and then taking them once more. Oddly, the biggest change came when I started taking Vitamin D. I have gotten more energy from those little pills than anything I have ever used. I wonder whether meds deplete your body of of Vitamin D. But something fairly dramatic has taken place since I was prescribed Vitamin D by my nurse practitioner. This is very curious and wonderful so I am grateful this has happened.

The mental health system as I have experienced it focuses a lot on meds and my co-workers seem pretty knowledgeable about the impact of different meds on people. I don’t do any of that and I am rarely involved with med delivery. I have read articles that cite studies saying the meds are not as important as relationships so I focus on relationship building. I need people to understand that the people they have been struggling with are probably the ones with whom they need to develop relationships.

Alkl of this leads to Nia, or purpose. It seems I have learned about my purpose during the years I shifted from my previous occupations as grantwriter, librarian, or childcare administrator. What is most common is that I have been a listener in all of these professions. To reflect on one’s purpose is to understand why you are there. When people ask me things that are outside of my purpose, it is easy to refuse them. I say “that’s not why I’m here.” And they either become curious about this slender, grayhaired African-American or they walk away. I believe I was placed inthis position to be a practitioner and a member of a group to help reform the system. Don’t ask me why I know this because you would translate my message into something deeply religious or spiritual, which I am not.

All I know is that I cannot rest until I have fulfilled it. I hope that you who are reading me will find your purpose. And that sock that has gotten lost in the drier. Happy Kwanzaa.





Starting my new group!

I decided to suggest creating a new group that I would facilitate focusing on my interest in alternative and complimentary therapies. Everything from journaling, to exercise, to vitamins and pet therapy would be included. We can be as creative as our minds will allow us. After all, you can’t put a tuxedo on the funky blues, or so I was told.

My idea is a follow up from something I mentioned at our staff retreat in which I declared we were woefully neglecting the non-medical  aspects of recovery. I mentioned that I had switched from a prescription medication recommended by my psychiatrist to a dietary supplement that I learned about on television. It’s called deproloft and its available at a local store that educates people about self-care.  I wanted to take more responsibility for my own recovery instead of remaining a patient as I had been in the eyes of the psychiatrist. I had become frustrated last fall when I first informed him that I planned on switching over to using SAMe  and he kept telling me he thought that all the progress I had made as a peer specialist would go out the door once I switched from the drugs. My sister and mother were terrified and angry about the change.

But now, there are lives in the balance. I have moved on in my direction and have used the other coping strategies I had picked up and thanks to them,  I am better than ever. That’s the story I want to share in my new group.  Will you be there next Friday at 11?

Doctor, please undiagnose me

Mad in America



I just had one of those, yes, yes, yes moments and for the first time it had nothing to do with sex. I read a blog entry by Corrina West who I discovered on the wonderful Mad in America website. She had written a piece called What a new role for psychiatrists would look like and it included a link for undiagnose me. This is what I found when I followed the link:

The UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress alternatives say:

Undiagnosing Emotional Distress. Sometimes it’s not genetic. Sometimes it’s:

  • Past trauma experiences
  • Lack of social connections
  • Job fit or career goals
  • Grief
  • Loss of hope
  • Disconnection with our creator
  • Drug Use
  • Nutrition, exercise, or sleep habits

I almost leaped out of my seat because everything she listed except for the thing about the creator matched the things I have experienced. In my earlier blogs about the onset of my distress, I talked about many of these things. I had lost hope, my sleep had been out of whack, I had used drugs and I had a mismatch of career choices. I was not good enough in doing the the things for which I had prepared in college and I needed to learn something new.

In my new role as a certified peer specialist I think back to the old Fleetwood Mac song Landslide. “I climbed a mountain and I turned around. ” The hardest part was convincing myself I wouldn’t start falling backward. I have begun handling the seasons of my life as I grow older. Can you imagine how refreshing and liberating it would be for a psychiatrist to talk with you about not being a patient but a fully emerged human being? I have an appointment scheduled next month at the VA  where I intend to give my psychiatrist an opportunity to do that very thing. Doctor, doctor, give me the news. I’ve got a bad case of doing well  And I want some more.

Do I sound mentally ill to you? Would you interview me and confirm that I sound like the same man who sought help from the Veterans Administration? How is my prognosis? My meeting with the doctor did not go so well. Maybe I was overly optimistic about the idea of being seen as a person, not a mass of symptoms. Symptoms he had never witnessed. Well I decided that empowerment was a better medicine for me.

As it happened my doctor is long gone and I did not seek out a replacement. So, technically, I got my wish about a year later than I had hoped. One day, years ago, the diagnosis I was given had some basis in reality, but today my diagnosis is recovered.

Hypnotized (Fleetwood Mac song)
Hypnotized (Fleetwood Mac song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Found a new supplement

Health food store
Health food store (Photo credit: PR®)
Prescription placebos used in research and pra...
Prescription placebos used in research and practice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Prescription placebos used in research and pra...
Prescription placebos used in research and practice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Readers of this blog will remember that I started taking SAMe late last year with excellent results. However I have found the supplement a little expensive. It was better than the placebos from the drug industry I had been taking but wow a 2 week supply could set me back a few dollars. With that in mind I called a local health food store and asked about their recommendations.

The fact that health food store was so nearby was remarkable, too. It is conveniently located next to a liquor store. The person I spoke to at the store recommended deproloft-hf  which has a lot of B vitamins  and other interesting ingredients. The list of ingredients includes something called GABA that I intend to investigate a little further. I am hoping that readers will have had more experience than me with supplements in general and this particular compound.

I want to be able to have the excitement and fun that was available before I began slowing down my thoughts. I don’t want to race until 3 AM but I also don’t want to feel numb. There ought to be a happy middle ground available that says, it’s okay to kiss your girl friend. Stay out and have a good time for the weekend? No problem. Gotta work on Monday. We got your back, bro.

With that in mind, let the comments fly. Who likes supplements and who prefers not taking supplements or medications?


Life Without the Placebos

Followers of this blog will recall reading about my decision about 10 weeks ago to completely abandon the mood stabilizer and the anti depressant I had been taking for several years. The people in my care team, including my psychiatrist, my nurse practitioner and my immediate family were aghast at my decision. They remembered a lot of the problem that had arisen in the past after I abandoned the safety net provided by chemicals. Nonetheless, I stuck to my rights and to  me it has been the best decision I ever made.

Is this something that everyone could do? Probably not. For one thing I have a a lot of coping strategies. I’m highly educated, work experience in several fields, access to resources in person and over the Internet, a pet and a lot of self-understanding. I have people in the programs where I work who complain about their medications and the length of time they have been taking them. However as soon as they remove these medications from their symptoms they begin to deteriorate. To a certain extent their bodies have been trained to look for these medications and their minds keep asking, where’s the stuff?

Even the most ardent mental health advocates usually  recommend a gradual approach to weaning yourself off medications. This process involves finding other strategies, such as one might develop using a wellness recovery action plan. I developed my plan several years ago and I have helped others. These plans cover many different areas such as exercise, coping with environmental triggers, friendship, employment and romance.

When I moved into a clean and safe duplex recently it was a direct result of the success of my wellness plan. My mind responded positively, too, saying, “I like that, give me some more.”  In other words, now that I have a nice place, how about some company? I worked with a woman over the weekend who I have been dying to get to know for more than a year. As it happened, she moved recently and lives about ten blocks away from me. Walking distance, another one of the coping strategies.

I got a dvd player last week and hooked it up to my big screen television. I bought some dvds, watched one of them at home and decided I should bring it to work. My Internet provider ATT forced me into their rebranded service Uverse which sounds like something that the Unitarian Universalists would have created. It’s a little faster than my old service and works better with my blog. And the aforementioned pet, my little cat, has more room to roam around without getting underfoot. That was one of my pet peeves, pun intended, at my old place.

So you can just imagine with all of these things going on, how would ever have time to become depressed? So my advice, for those who want to replace those little placebos, is to get a life. Really, you’ll be glad you did.