Monday, May 14, 2012

The Five Keys to Mental Health (Or Here's to You, Mr. M)

Way back when, not long after I received my bipolar diagnosis, I was shuffled off from my psychiatrist to a physician's assistant for the then bimonthly sessions.  The PA, who I'll call Mr. M, and yours truly had a number of sessions, and each one ended with a review of the Five Ways to Mental Health.  These have been shown in many other forms by many other folks, but the ideas are always fresh and are also conducive to the cognitive problems from MS.

And they are....

1. Have something to do
2. Have somewhere to go
3. Have someone to love
4. Have Something to Believe In
5. Have something to look forward to.

Over the next five days, we'll take a look at them, and see where each of them was of a help to me, and if what worked for me might work for others.

Have Something To Do

Okay, not like this guy, whether you are blondie there or on the other end of the phone.  Something to do does not mean your job.  In fact, stressful jobs can only make things worse for yourself, your condition(s), and the people around you.  Here is a link to a recent study for bipolar, and right here is one for MS.  There are plenty of studies on this and you can weave your way through the InterWeb and see.

So, quit your job? Well, that's a tough call if you've got others dependent on you, or you need the health insurance.  Or here's a different thought, maybe, despite its hassles, you actually like your job.

Early on in my life I decided I just could not work to make someone else wealthy.  This meant I either when into business for myself (non-starter), or worked at a non-profit, or government, or just stay home.  After my father's death in 1979, I did just that.  I stayed home, and sat, got fat, and tried to deal with what I had just been through-not realizing that I was bipolaring on this stress and that the disorder loves this.  I took two years for me to finally get a job.  But got it I did.  Civil Service. Government Guy.  Around here, not far from the Capital in Albany, everyone assumes you work for New York State.  But after a few futile attempts in taking tests, I found myself sitting nice working in county government.

It was a Social Services Office.  Or, if you prefer, the welfare place.  People came in with their disasters and we did the best we could to fix things up.  I'm going to keep my opinions on Welfare/Public Assistance/Temporary Assistance to myself as I trying to keep things rant free, but you will probably get the idea when I note that I was in the business for 29 years, but got out the moment they asked if I wanted to.

I worked with some wonderful people, some complete jerks, a few psychopaths, and people that would have been institutionalized just a few decades ago, myself included.  You find these people in every walk of life.  And it all depends on your reaction to them.  Work with the nice as much as you can, avoid the rest if you can, but if you can't (and here's where things go a little Buddhist), then do your best to be as tolerant as you can.  They have issues, too.

So years in the office first as a cube drone and then as a supervisor up to an Assistant Director.  When  no matter what level you're at, you are still dealing with people in crisis, and add in the daily details of  staff, and your personal life, and you're heading nonstop to Stress Central.  Some turned to drink, some turned to drugs, others opted out as soon as possible, which causes more stress as now you've got to hire more staff and train them or dump on the remaining staff.  And the phones never stopped ringing.

I left the County at the end of 2010, thanks to an early retirement incentive.  Considering that MS was starting to wind its way into my legs, making walking tougher, and stairs? stairs?(please).  Worse for me was there would be times my staff would ask me questions on the arcane rules of welfare, something that I lived and breathed, and I would have no idea what they were talking about.  Warning: Get out!

So out I went.  And on January 2, 2011 I woke up with nothing to do.  My wife went to work, and I fell asleep on the couch.  This lasted a week or so (not the sleeping).  I realized, with the help of the Angels around me, that my new job was me.  Lose weight.  Start working out.  Get the household repairs done.  On the fun size, plenty of reading, movies and time in nature.

Back yard roses.  Doctors visits, therapy and time to think about what I'm thinking about.

My full time job is not letting MS win, in not letting bipolar disorder control thoughts.  These can be full time challenges, and right now I'm still pretty mobile.  I can still walk.

If you are still employed, congrats, and all the best.  It is something to do.  But remember what your real job  Take care.  More tomorrow.

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