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The wicked problem of mental illness

Yesterday, I blogged mostly about gun control as a possible solution to the ending the mass murders we’re seeing more and more in this country. I also noted that ensuring effective treatment of the mentally ill was another solution that needed to be explored.


I wanted to touch a little more on the mental illness aspect. But, I’m having trouble formulating my thoughts into anything coherent  I’m not as comfortable with this topic. And, that in itself gives me pause.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m pretty opinionated and not afraid to make those opinions known. I’m sure many of my Facebook friends are glad the presidential election is over and I’ve shut up about politics. So, my uncomfortableness in expressing an opinion on mental illness is weird to me.  I wanted to figure out why I was uneasy.

In doing so, I began to evaluate my own personal experiences with mental illness.  And, I realized I haven’t had much (thankfully?) There’s no one in my immediate family (that I’m aware of anyway) who suffers from mental illness. I don’t have children, so I’ve had little interaction with those who have autism.

About 18 years ago, I worked in a group home for mentally disabled adults, and some of them, in addition to their disabilities, also suffered from mental illness, like mania and bipolarism. I had to restrain a couple who became aggressive a few times, and I had to give them their medicines. But, that was quite a long time ago.

Closer to home and to now, I have an acquaintance with bipolar disorder. This acquaintance actually was a very close friend until about 7 years go, but his illness, or rather his lack of seeking/following treatment for the illness, put a wedge in our friendship that I don’t ever see going away.  I still see him a few times a year, as we have mutual friends and interests. But, I do my best to avoid him. And when I can’t, I’m cordial but distant. For a little while, our mutual friends tried to get us to be friends again, but they seem to have given up, and we don’t talk about it anymore. I can’t say I’m sorry about that.

I’m not going to go into details about what happened, but basically, I do not feel safe around him. What happened happened because he was refusing the treatment for his disease. And, I just cannot trust that will not happen again. And, when he’s not on his meds, I become a target for him. I do not know why. I spent many, many hours trying to figure that out and eventually gave up. He was not physically violent, but I honestly feel like it is a very real possibility that he could be.

It appears that he is doing very well right now, and when I do see him, he seems like his old self. So, his current treatment must be working. But, back when we were friends, he was doing very well and the treatment was working, and he just stopped doing it. And then he lashed out at me in a most unexpected and hurtful way. I always have this fear in the back of my mind that he’s going to just stop taking his meds again, and I’ll be his target again.

So, part of me feels guilty. Part of me knows that if he didn’t have his mental illness, what happened never would have happened. Yet, the other part of me is angry that he did not take responsibility for maintaining his treatment and staying on his meds. He knew full well what he was doing, and even said so.

I also have a cousin who is suicidal. But, it’s kept very quiet. He lives thousands of miles away from me, so I only hear updates from my Mom whenever anything bad happens, like he’s in the hospital again. And, I can’t blame them. Who wants to talk about X’s latest suicide attempt at Christmas dinner?

So, in thinking about those two incidents I realized a common thread: No one is talking about it. With my former friend, the talk with our mutual friends always centered on why I should forgive and forget, never on the fact that he refused to take his meds or maybe that there was a problem with his ability to get his meds which would point to a systemic problem (and may have softened my stance against his refusal to take his meds?)  With my cousin, it’s just that no one is talking about it at all. So, there’s like this unwritten code that mental illness is to be kept hushed, and it becomes uncomfortable when you break that code and start talking about it.

Those are just my personal examples. And, I don’t feel like they’re a drop in the bucket to what others are facing. Like my cousin’s parents, wife, and child who have to directly deal with his suicide attempts. Or like my acquaintance’s girlfriend who lives with his drastic mood swings. Or another friend who has to fight the school system to get his autistic son an education. I would safely bet that if someone is not directly dealing with a mental illness him/herself or with an immediate family member who is, he/she, like me, knows people who are or have had experiences in the past. And, there’s a whole other blog post to be written about the number of mentally ill people in our industrial prison complex.

In just the same way that multiple incidents of gun violence points to a problem with guns in this country, the sheer number of people who have a mental illness in this country points to a problem.  So, as I said yesterday, I’m thrilled that American citizens are talking about it.

But, this issue is not as easy to address.  Okay, we have too many people with mental illness in this country. Another part of the problem is a lot of those people can’t / won’t / aren’t getting the treatment to help them with that illness. But, I’m not sure how to begin to address that.

With gun control, I am a gun owner. And, I’ve done a fair amount of research on the issue of gun control. Therefore, I feel like my opinion is valid. With mental illness on the other hand,  I do not have a clinical degree, and I do not have much first-hand experience with the mentally ill. So, I guess my lack of knowledge on the subject makes me feel like I don’t have much of a right to voice an opinion on how to address the problem.

To remedy that, I began to some reading on the ‘net.  But, I’ve come across so much contradictory opinions, I’m feeling even more overwhelmed. For example,  this article was being posted everywhere. When I read that, I was thinking what everyone else who had posted it was: “Wow, how poignant.” and “Oooh, this post helps strengthen the argument that we have to address access to mental health care.”

But, then I saw this article.  And then this one. And, now I’m not so sure about the first one. I guess I’m glad that they all have made me think. But, I’m now questioning the link between violence and mental illness. Now, I’m wondering if this conversation about mental illness that’s begun is going to make things worse by stigmatizing the mentally ill as all being potential mass murderers, as this article suggests.

Stigma pic 1

In my design grad school, we learned a term that I think accurately describes this issue: wicked problem. This issue with mental illness is “… difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.” And, at first glance, it appears “…resistance to resolution.”

Now that I think about it, I think THAT is why this topic makes me most uneasy. I think I see some clear paths to a solution in the gun control debates. But, with mental illness, it’s very, very murky.

I guess the only thing I can do is continue to read, think, and talk about it. And, I hope that the rest of the country does the same thing.

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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


Muscle vs. Fat

I had my 3rd weigh-in on Sunday.  I was down 5.4 pounds and 3 more inches off my waist, which makes it a total of 9.4 pounds and 6.5 inches off my waist in 6 weeks.  I was happy with those results, of course. But, I was in for a surprise.

Since the boot camp is somewhat of a competition, after every 2 weeks we get a list of the folks who have lost the most weight and the most inches. The people in the “most weight lost” lists are amazing…I think the #1 male has lost almost 40 pounds now, and the #1 female has lost almost 25.  So, I figured I’d never end up on any of these lists.  But, there I was…#3 on the “most inches lost” list!  WTH?? Me, with my 9.4 pounds, quite measly when compared to 25?? How can that be?

But, it makes sense. In my last post I talked about how I was noticing muscle definition. That has to be because I’m losing fat that shows off those muscles. And, because the space that used to be taken up by that fat is now being taken up by those muscles.  And, no, it’s not because “muscle weighs more than fat”. That is a myth. A pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat. The difference in muscle and fat is that a pound of muscle takes up less space than fat.  This is a good illustration. Both of the representations of fat and muscle in this picture weigh exactly the same. But, notice the difference in SIZE:

That’s why if you replace fat with muscle, you can fit into smaller clothes sizes. I am now wearing the same size clothes that I wore in college, but I weigh more than I did back then.

And, I’m very okay with that! 🙂

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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


Make Progess Not Excuses!*

So, what is this Meltdown Boot Camp? In a nutshell:

As I said in my previous post, the Meltdown is program that was developed by a local physical trainer that focuses on fat loss. It incorporates an aggressive exercise plan with a nutritional plan that focuses on reducing or eliminating things like sugar, carbs, processed foods and soda by eating many small meals throughout the day that are high in protein, veggies, and “good fats”. There are also support and accountability components, as you communicate via email daily and weekly with your food and cardio coaches, respectively.

Anyone can start the Meltdown at any time. The boot camp is where they take about 50 people who want to do the Meltdown, and they have them all start at the same time. Then, for the next 8 weeks, all those people work the program together. And, it’s a bit of a competition. There are prizes given away at the end for the the most weight, inches, and body fat percentage lost.

Oh yeah, you get weighed once every 2 weeks, but are encouraged NOT to step on the scale any other time.

Basically, it’s the way that most ‘experts’ suggest you should eat, the way I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to eat for a few years now. But, my diet tended to include too much processed/convenience foods and sugar and most definitely not a lot of veggies. Even though I KNOW how I should eat, I wasn’t doing it. So, that’s probably the main reason why I decided to do this. I need help getting my diet to what it should be. I just can’t do it on my own. So, my hope is that over the 8 weeks I’m doing the program, my tastes and my habits when it comes to picking food will change. Is it too much to ask that when I’m craving something sweet I naturally reach for strawberries instead of a chocolate bar??

I had, however, been doing pretty well with exercise on my own, so I figured that wouldn’t be a big deal. I was already in the habit of getting up early and exercising before work. My workouts typically were running for cardio and weight lifting for strength training, with a few exercise classes thrown in here and there.

So, here I am, a week and a half into it. And, regarding my goal to eat better in the long run, I do think it’s working. I’ve really been enjoying my food. I’ve done diets that were so bland and boring that they lasted only a few days, and, honestly, that’s kind of what I expected this to be like. But, I have found myself being rather creative when I’m cooking and pretty much everything I’ve eaten since I started tasted GOOD! Last night, even my husband raved about the scallops I cooked (which were simply sauteed in olive oil, parsley, and red pepper flakes).

I’ve also found that I am NOT hungry most of the time. Can’t say that about other diets. And, if I find myself getting hungry, I look at the clock and see that it’s only a few more minutes until it’s time to eat my next small meal anyway. I never thought eating more meals would be the thing for me. But, I was wrong.

Now, the exercise…boy was I wrong! I have been SORE ever since I started this program. And, when I do work out, whether in their classes or on my own following their guidelines, I sweat more than I ever have. I’ve increased the amount of time I spend exercising each day from 30 minutes to an hour, and I’ve consistently exercised 6 days a week, when before I usually did 4. So, I’m actually glad I was wrong on that front. I needed a good kick in the butt when it came to my exercising.

Oh, I almost forgot! In the eating plan, you get cheat days and cheat meals! Once every 2 weeks (after you’ve weighed in), you can eat ANYTHING you want that whole day! And, on the weeks you don’t weigh in, you get one cheat meal that week. I have already been fantasizing about what my first cheat day will hold. And, it’s this coming Sunday, by the way LOL Honestly, I think that may be one thing that is helping me stick to the somewhat-limited food list. Knowing that I don’t have to say no to cheese or beer or chocolate or curry or any of my other favorite “bad” food permanently seems to make it easier to say yes to the veggies I used to avoid.

Don’t get me wrong, though. It hasn’t all been glitter and unicorns. I have struggled with some things. But, I think I’ve written enough for today. So, in future posts, I’ll talk about some of the negatives I’ve encountered (but, obviously, they can’t be all that bad, if I’m still doing it, right?) 🙂

*BTW, the title of this post is the mantra for this program. Ever since I started the boot camp, I’ve been wearing a bracelet with those words on it, so I’ve also made it my personal mantra for the time I’m doing this.

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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


I’m melting (I hope!)

It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve posted to this blog. D’oh!

Perhaps I was lazy. Perhaps I was busy. Perhaps I just didn’t have anything to blog about. I don’t know. But, it doesn’t matter. Because I’m back. And, I think I’ve got something to blog about now that will produce posts on a more regular basis.

(Side note: I’ve changed the template for this blog, so it looks quite a bit different, if anyone happens to remember it LOL I figure it’s kind of like a fresh start. But, all my old content is still here–not that there was much of it anyway.)

What is it I want to blog about? Well, anyone who knows me or looks through the archives of this blog will see that I’m a professional at losing (and gaining) weight. For most of my life, I have lost, gained, lost, gained, lost…you get the picture.

About a week and a half ago, I started a new effort at getting the weight off again. Over the past 10 days while focusing on this new effort, I’ve frequently thought something, then thought “I should blog about that!” So, that’s what I’m going to do.

A quick history: I’ve been overweight and/or obese for almost as long as I can remember, and I’ve been trying to lose weight (and regaining it) for almost as long as that. From 2003 – 2006, I finally saw success and lost 107 pounds by following the Weight Watchers program. I maintained that weight for about a year until I started grad school full time while still working full time. In the 2 years I was in grad school, I gained pretty much all of what I lost back. So, I began anew when I finished grad school in May, 2009. I managed to lose 40 pounds over the next 2 years on my own (no more Weight Watchers for me) by exercising and tracking my food on SparkPeople. But, over the past few months, I started gaining again. My total loss is now at 37 pounds.

I have a coworker who lost 30 pounds, and I’ve been impressed with her results. So, a couple months ago I asked her what she was doing and she told me a little about a program she was following that was developed by a local physical trainer. I did a little research on it and saw that I would have to purchase it and decided I didn’t need to spend the money and would just keep plugging away on my own.

But, I just gained and lost and gained and lost on my own. I was getting really frustrated when that coworker sent me an email inviting me to join her at a free exercise class. So, I took her up on it. I was quite impressed with the class, especially the fact that it was so full at 6am! I revisited the idea about the program she had done and decided to make the plunge.

On Monday, July 25th, I began the “Meltdown Boot Camp” at Next Generation Personal Training & Fitness in Bloomington, IN. And, that’s what you can expect my future blog posts to be about.

I know I’m not a fan of long blog posts, and this one has gotten longer than I wanted, so I’m going to stop there for today. In subsequent posts, I plan to explain a little about what the program is (but I can’t tell you too much about it, as it is copyrighted material) but mostly I think I’ll be describing my experience with and results on it.

Until next time…


Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


I’m glad President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize (with a surprise ending)

So, the news broke early this morning that President Barrack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

And, you know what? I elated about it!  I really don’t have time today to respond to all the posts and tweets and blogs from people asking why, so I’m going to quickly dump my thoughts here in one place.

The big question is: Does he deserve it?

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel specified that the prize be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.” The prize is awarded on a very specific to the timeline.  The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is for work done during the year of 2009 only.

People say that because we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he doesn’t deserve it.  However, his administration is not the one that sent those troops there, that started these unnecessary wars. Yes, if the wars are unnecessary, then he should pull the troops out, and he hasn’t done so.  And, I wish he would.  But, the prize isn’t awarded on things people haven’t done…it’s based on what they HAVE done.

Yes, during the past 9 months, there hasn’t been much done regarding “abolotion or reduction of standing armies”, but President Obama has been extremely active in fostering “fraternity between nations” and the “promotion of peace congresses”.  He has met with many world leaders who are considered U.S. enemies…something many previous presidents have not done. He has made real advances in US-Russian relations, for example.

(Side track rant:  I love the arguments I’ve seen recently that his being so open to improving foreign relations makes him a “beta male” or “exposes the US’s belly to the enemy”.  Seriously?  The man is trying to negotiate peace and that makes him weak?  I just don’t get that line of thinking.  Was Ghandi weak? Is the Dalai Lama weak? The whole “strength = being powerful, closed off and secretive” standpoint got us nowhere during the Bush administration, and I’m very thankful the current administration isn’t following suit.)

Anyway, in the literal sense, based on the criteria in Nobel’s will, he does deserve it, especially in today’s climate.  Take this quote this Newsday article:

“You have to remember that the world has been in a pretty dangerous phase,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. “And anybody who can contribute to getting the world out of this situation deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.”

Next question: Does he deserve it more than anyone else?  Honestly, I do not know, and my inclination is to say no, he probably doesn’t.  I don’t know who was in the running against him.  And, like many critics, I do think that he really hasn’t been in office long enough to see the results of his work yet.  I think he’s on the right track and in 4 years (hopefully  8!) there will be absolutely NO question that he deserves it.  But, perhaps giving him this award is a little premature.

But, despite that, I am still glad that he won.  The fact that this was awarded to a U.S. President is huge!  He’s only the third sitting president to get it. And, it’s awarded by an international committee.  IMO, U.S. Citizens have been so focused on the internal health care debates that they have not been paying attention to President Obama’s international efforts (except for pundits who claim talking to enemies make us weak).  For the past 8 years, the international opinion of the U.S. has not been good.  But, with the election of Obama, that has changed.  According to the same Newsday article:

Obama’s election and foreign policy moves caused a dramatic improvement in the image of the U.S. around the world. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found double-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing the U.S. favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under President George W. Bush.

Even before he was ever elected president, he made it clearly known that improving foreign relations was a high priority.  Here’s proof, in the form of an essay he wrote in 2007: Renewing America’s Leadership. Heck, International Relations was his major in college, and I think his focus on the topic is one of the things that got him elected.  Americans are tired of being hated by the rest of the world.

Now, I will not deny the fact that there is definitely political motivation in the decision to give him this prize, though I very much wish that were not true. I hate politics.  Really.  I especially hate them outside of the normal political arena, like in the workplace or in cases like this.  But, politics in these situations are as certain as death and taxes in my opinion.

So, yes, I do believe that the committee was also thumbing their noses at the Bush Administration with this award by giving it to President Obama.  They were quite critical of the military attacks Bush perpetrated after 9/11, and Obama has shown he is not doing things the way Bush did. This their way of saying “I fart in your general direction” to Bush.  And, I find that childish and unbecoming.

Now, here is the surprise ending to this post:  Because of the politics involved in the picking of Obama for this award, and because of the mostly negative reaction of the U.S. Citizens I’ve seen to the news, and because of the question of whether he really deserved the award, I think that President Obama should NOT accept it. He should ask that someone more deserving receive it.  Perhaps such humility will help deplete the new fuel for the “I Hate Obama” fire. It certainly could only continue to improve the international opinion of the U.S.

Addendum:  This article pretty much sums up my thoughts: Obama’s Nobel and America’s Popularity

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Posted by on October 9, 2009 in Uncategorized


A Follow-up

In March, I wrote a post about a friend who was struggling with professional identity theft, which occurred because idjits on the ‘net couldn’t take the time to verify information they received in an email and just blindly forwarded it on.

Five months later, he’s still fighting it.  But, it looks like he’s winning.  He’s taken many steps to combat this identity theft, and being the consummate professor, he turned it into a teaching moment.  Check out his article in INSIDE HIGHER ED:

The Accidental Celebrity

Way to go, Tim!!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:  Before you post anything on a website or forward an email, please, please, please take a few seconds to reflect on whether or not the information you are about to post or forward is true and verifiable. Going to Snopes or doing a Google search to verify the content only takes a few minutes. If you cannot verify the information, then do not post or forward it!!

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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Uncategorized



No, that’s not “Time sucks”. Time is a pretty cool, if complex, concept. I’ve got no problem with time itself. I’m talking about things that that suck my time, keep me from being productive or doing other things that I want to do.

I’ve slowly come to the realization that I’ve given in to some time-sucks, and I really need to back off of them. My personal time-sucks are Facebook, Twitter, and the local newspaper’s comment section.

The other night, I was sitting in my living room, and I wistfully looked at the Neil Gaiman book and an unfinished knitting project that were sitting on my coffee table and thought, “I wish I had time to finish those!” Then, I realized, I was sitting there with my Tweetdeck, Facebook, and the online newspaper open on my laptop browser.

I then proceeded to have the following conversation with myself (and yes, I do talk to myself :P):

“What do you mean you wish you had time? You just finished going to grad school full time while working full time. You should have all the time in the world now.”

“I know but…”

“You no longer have to conduct research or write papers or work on your thesis or have group meetings or read boring, dry scholarly articles. What are you doing with all the time that you used to use to do those things?”

“ummmmm, Facebook, Twitter, and the online newspaper, I guess.”

“You guess?!?”

“Ok, I know. That’s what I’m doing with all my free time.”

“Oh, it’s more than your ‘free time’. You have Tweetdeck open the entire 8 hours you’re at work, and you check FB at least every hour. You also spend way too much time reading and commenting on the community boards at the online newspaper. Do you really need to know what other people in your town think about the news? Isn’t just know what’s going on in your town enough?”


“Well, nothing. You would have time to finish that dishcloth and that book if you shut that damn laptop.”

“But, I love Twitter and Facebook. The newspaper’s comments are more like watching a trainwreck, though, I just can’t look away sometimes.”

“Don’t you love reading and knitting, too? Oh, and what about watching TV? How many Dollhouse episodes do you still have on DVR to watch?”


[rolls eyes]

“You’re right. I need to start limiting the time I spend on those things.”

“Of course I’m right. I’m you!”

So, I am going to enforce some limits on myself. Twitter is going to be hard because I do have a legitimate work reason to have it open during the day. But, in addition to that reason, I also use Twitter as kind of an RSS feed. It gives me the newest lolcats and fmls as soon as they’re published. And, I can limit the time I spend on those things.

Below is my plan to decrease these time-sucks:

1. Facebook shall be checked once in the morning, once at lunch time, and once in the evening. During this time, no more than 30 minutes shall be spent on Facebook. In order to ensure that time limit, an online ‘egg timer’ shall be used.

2. Personal use of Twitter will occur on the same frequency as above.

3. The comments section of the online newspaper are off-limits. They’re mostly morons posting anyway, and none of them really care about what you have to say. The important stuff is in the actual story, and it doesn’t take you very long to read them.

That’s the plan. It will be initiated as soon as I get home tonight. Here’s hoping I have the strength to see it through…I’ve been addicted to social networking since 1997 when I got my first computer, before the term “social networking” was ever coined!

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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in Uncategorized