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Thread: Let's talk mental health!

  1. #1
    Super Moderator DocDave's Avatar
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    Let's talk mental health!

    Not sure how this topic will fly on this manly of man website, but here goes.

    It occurred to me this morning, as I looked in the mirror between reps at the gym, that mental health is HUGELY importantly to not only my style, but my life. In speaking with friends (and even family) many of them discount the small things that can have a HUGE impact on our mental health and outlook.

    I have cut back on the volume of booze I've been drinking (and it seems like I'm not alone too) and I think that has had a big impact on my mental health. I just feel better about myself.

    Another thing that has me feeling good is weight and diet. Anyone who's been on on the weight loss thread knows that losing some weight at the start of the year was a goal of mine. That loss of 10 lbs, plus regularly going to the gym has meant that I am looking better - not that I looked bad before. But looking better means that I am feeling better. Mentally and physically.

    So where am I going with this post? Good question, and I don't really know.

    I guess I just wanted to share my journey and see what's worked for you guys. How do you look after your mental health? What are you doing to stay positive and have a happy outlook on life? Doing the above small changes has given me a much better, more positive outlook. I find that starting the day feeling good about who I am, and where I am, means I'm able to take the bumps in life better. If that makes any sense.

    I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for reading.

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    Varsity Member armedferret's Avatar
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    Oh I'm massively messed up from my fully-funded vacations overseas. I'm 100% aware of that. Thankfully I'm able to cope without the standard VA cocktails to date, managed mostly by gym time and the random adventures the wifey and I take throughout the year. Having something to look forward to really reduces the siren's song of dwelling on the past. I do foresee myself moving completely away from all things government/military/cleared world related upon my retirement from the service, mostly due to the fact I'll be joining many of my close friends in utilizing alternative organic methods in lieu of VA's.....less than effective choices.

    When I first got off active duty and moved to the reserves, but before I went on full-time orders, things took a significant downward spiral. It wasn't until I went to school in TX back in 15-16 that I started getting back on track mentally BECAUSE i forced myself to get back on track physically. Add in a massive bout of depression and not wanting to eat anything for days at a time, and the weight loss was significant (but quite unhealthy). I dropped probably......45-ish pounds, maybe 50, in about 2 months. Then slooowwwwly built it back up to being about 15 pounds under (now) where I was (but in SIGNIFICANTLY better shape). I still have a ways to go and may never get there, but imma keep doin what i'm doin and if it doesn't work, change it up in a few months. May just have to suffer through a few months of a massive caloric deficit to get where I want to be. Not the ideal way to do it, but I spose if it's gotta be done, it's better in the summer than during the holidays. :P

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    This topic could go any number of ways but I have found three things that have a positive impact on my mental health.

    The first is working out and staying active. I have a desk job so getting up and moving around outside of my job is necessary. There are days when I don’t work out due to it being my wife’s night for the gym and it makes me feel lazy but those days where I can move around and sweat are the best.

    The second is sleep. @DocDave this may be why you are feeling better by lowering alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects REM sleep. I try to get in at least 7.5hrs (10p – 5:30a) during the week and even longer on the weekends. By 9p I am getting ready for bed and start reading which usually puts me to sleep in 5-10pages. I stay away from LED lights as much as possible and ignore my phone. I also try to limit things that can affect sleep such as caffeine after a certain period, alcohol, or sedatives. I have had allergies the past week and my sleep has been affected. I can tell that I am slower moving and foggy brained.

    The third is meditation. I started this year and even my wife can tell my behavior has changed. Those 10 minutes a day of just sitting and focusing on my breath while trying not to worry about anything has helped immensely. Meditation needs a brand change as it seems like every rich person quotes waking up early and meditating as part of their success. I just find it gives me time to just experience things I would otherwise ignored. Such as feeling a breeze on your face but then also feeling it slightly brush across your fingertips. It has also helped me ignore the bullshit of other things. Unpleasantness can’t last forever and when you realize this it is easier to move on from.

    I look forward to reading other responses. It has really been over the past year that focusing on the “me” has helped me be a better father and husband. Weird to put into words.

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    A truly important topic, actually. A few things I have learned need my attention to regulate...

    Sleep is huge. Its crazy how much sleep can impact your mood and brain.

    Looking for ways to stay in a positive mindset and deciding to act on them. Sometimes when I am stressed or overwhelmed I just go look for a "small win". Anything I know I can accomplish and is something I have wanted done. Small wins build confidence and momentum and can be what starts a turnaround. I recently moved and it wasn't planned. Talk about stressful and sometimes overwhelming. I needed a small win in there somewhere so I decided to wall mount a tv. It was something only I could do and had zero outside dependencies to delay me...but was also appreciated by others as well as myself.

    Curating your inner dialog. What I mean is stop talking so much negativity about yourself in your own head.

    Seek counsel if needed. We often go to our buddies and they just reinforce what we are thinking, which isnt always helpful. Objective input from an outside source is often better.

    Self care. Be sure you have an activity that is for you and can be done guilt free. For me it is hiking. Even though my wife does it with me a lot of the time, its still important for me. My wife goes to get a facial once a month. Could be the gym. Whatever. Just have a thing that is for you and do it on a fairly regular basis.

    Drinking...I have an occasional after work beer. Usually when I have had an annoying day, but never when I am actually angry about something. And I limit to 1 or 2 if I am having a meal. Getting drunk is bad for your mentality under stress but having a drink can set you into social mode just because of the setting and activity, even if it isn't enough to get you tipsy.

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    Since retiring a year and a half ago, I have been focusing on improving my mental health. Although retirement was welcome it came at the price of losing a large part of my identity as I was in the type of job where what I did was a large part of what I was. If that makes sense.

    One of the ways I dealt with it was having an active lifestyle. It is interesting how vital improving one's physical health is to one's mental health. I became more physically active, fitter, more gym time, more hiking, more biking (can't do that anymore). Although I fell off that wagon for a bit I am trying to climb back on.

    Like others, I also decreased my alcohol consumption and increased my sleep time. My sweet spot seems to be 7 - 7.5 hours.

    Of course dressing better and looking better has had a huge positive impact on my mental health. This site and forum has been a huge help in that regard so thank you.
    I've spent a lot more time (and money) on skin care and though the results are somewhat noticeable the part that can't be seen (how I feel about myself) by itself is worth the price of admission.

    I'm looking forward to reading more replies on this thread. Thanks @DocDave for another excellent post.

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    Super Moderator LesserBlackDog's Avatar
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    There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, which is stupid, because when you break an arm or get an infection you wouldn't hesitate to go to a doctor for it, but when it's depression or anxiety we frequently try to keep things to ourselves and view it as a personal defect and self-medicate in ways that can be as or more destructive than the illness itself.

    I have some significant psychic trauma in my background and a somewhat melancholic personality, and have veered into what I would consider legitimate clinical depression a couple times in my life. IMO a healthy person is one who seeks out therapy (whether talk therapy or medications) to deal with those kinds of things before they veer out of control. I've had mixed results from traditional talk therapy and very good results from about 9 months of low dose antidepressants. I'm not taking any medications now but would not hesitate to hop back on them if I felt I was becoming depressed again.

    Long story short, I think there are a lot of lifestyle changes and habits we can develop to enhance our mental health hygiene (for lack of a better term), but I don't think that should be considered a substitute for professional intervention when it is necessary. I feel like the worst thing for a genuinely depressed person to hear is that they "should" be able to fix their own depression just by engaging in the stereotypical self-care practices. That is actually why I struggled with traditional cognitive behavioral therapy - the fact that doing the talk therapy, in my case for over a year, was not making me feel better actually made me feel MORE desperate and despondent about the hopelessness of my condition. Shortly after coming to that conclusion I quit talk therapy and went straight to my PCP for a prescription for basically the lowest dose, mildest antidepressant she would give me. That medication alleviated my symptoms of depression within a matter of weeks. Just like some medical issues can resolve themselves with time and self-care, and some medical issues need direct professional intervention, some mental health issues can be addressed through self-care and good habits, and some are better addressed in a professional context.
    Ben

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    Super Moderator DocDave's Avatar
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    Glad to see this thread getting some traction. I wasn't sure what the reception would be like when I posted this morning.

    And some really good points, items that I either didn't think about or had been doing all along and not noticing.

    @JBarwick you and I are similar in that bit about staying active. I find that so long as I'm on my bike or going to the gym, or doing something daily I feel better. I think it has something to do with all of those endorphins being released. Do I enjoy getting up early in the morning before work? No. Do I feel like a million bucks after? Damn straight!


    Both @idvsego and @JBarwick talk about sleep. Definitely important as I do get as much sleep as possible. I also make sure to get off devices one hour before bed, which is sometimes easier said than done. As I'm getting up early to hit the gym, I need to get to bed early. For the most part I'm able to fall asleep ok. If I'm having trouble I'll read a book or do something to relax my mind. Speaking of which...

    Meditation is something I have wanted to take up for a long time now. I know there is that app, mindspace(?) to help with it. I find it odd using an app to get away from it all, but I have heard good things about it. So far I haven't made time in my schedule to introduce meditation. I find that when I'm running or cycling, or even swimming, my mind will wander and I'll get in to a meditative state. So for now, that's working out ok for me.

    @Ron true words about dressing and looking better too. I found that when I started taking care of my outside, the inside/mental started to improve too. Also, thanks for the kind words re: the thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LesserBlackDog View Post
    There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, which is stupid, because when you break an arm or get an infection you wouldn't hesitate to go to a doctor for it, but when it's depression or anxiety we frequently try to keep things to ourselves and view it as a personal defect and self-medicate in ways that can be as or more destructive than the illness itself.
    I cant tell you how many times i have used a similar comparison. And to people that are adverse to any types of medication. Medication, when done in tandem with therapy, can help someone in a very tough spot. Following your example, it can be a cast. You don't wear the cast forever, just while you mend the bone. My first divorce was very difficult. I got to where I couldn't sleep through the night at all and it was impacting my work. I did a 3 month run of anxiety/antidepressants, a 1 month sleep aid, and regular counseling through that whole period. Man, it set me straight faster than I ever thought possible when I was in the thick of the depression. I still have some tendencies for anxiety and can have feelings of depression but learned a lot of good coping mechanisms during my therapy. I have had times where it has stuck around longer than a few days and I get right back into a counselors office and also take time to get back in the woods. So far, those have been enough to pull me out, but I wouldn't hesitate to use medication again, if needed.

    Currently my youngest daughter is on medication because she is too young to truly grasp some of the stuff she is dealing with from her mom and with her own personality tendencies. Last year she made suicidal threats at the age of 8 and it finally forced her mother to get on board with giving her help. That situation is far more complicated than just mental health but its still rooted in it. Her mom has some things that she refuses to address. I am not just saying that as a bitter ex. she has been diagnosed, has had multiple suicide attempts, and we tried couples counseling that turned into my solo counseling to try and deal with how she is.

    Anyway, just saying...take it all seriously.

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    Varsity Member mebejoseph's Avatar
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    Mental health? It's one of the few things that I've spent more money on than shoes over the last 10 years. There was a time I was going to therapy twice a week and it wasn't covered by insurance. I studied meditation for years. I've been on a small dosage of a medication (not an anti-depressant) that helps my mild depression that my doctor has been prescribing off label for years. It gives me just enough of that extra to keep the dark clouds from following me around.

    And of course this relates to style and dressing. I cannot deny that cleaning myself up and putting on a sharp suit and the accompanying accouterments gives me a mental lift.
    WHY ARE THE GUYS IN SUITS HERE? HAS SOMETHING GONE WRONG?

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    Varsity Member mebejoseph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by armedferret View Post
    Oh I'm massively messed up from my fully-funded vacations overseas. I'm 100% aware of that. * * *

    When I first got off active duty and moved to the reserves, but before I went on full-time orders, things took a significant downward spiral. It wasn't until I went to school in TX back in 15-16 that I started getting back on track mentally BECAUSE i forced myself to get back on track physically. * * *
    I'm glad you're taking affirmative steps to take care of yourself. It pains me doubly to know of the issues you young folks face after serving. I have many younger friends dealing with similar problems.

    And I was raised by a 30 something year career marine who was so majorly screwed-up that he made my childhood hell. After years of active duty in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, including some time in recon and as a drill instructor, he had no business raising kids.

    And back in those days, nobody outside of the mental health field knew the term PTSD.

    He just sucked it up and went on with life, spreading chaos through his (adopted) family's life.

    A huge part of dealing with a problem is recognizing it is there. And it sounds like you've done that and more. Keep up the good work.
    WHY ARE THE GUYS IN SUITS HERE? HAS SOMETHING GONE WRONG?

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