Exercise is good for your body and your mind. Exercise helps your heart rate, encourages healthier eating habits, and boosts endorphins, which make you feel better, happier, and helps with anxiety and depression. My personal favorite exercises are riding a bike, walking, and using the treadmill. I try to exercise for about 1 or 2 hours a day, alternating between different types of exercises and stretches and breaking it up over the course of the day. When I am done exercising, I feel good but tired and feel refreshed.
Experts say exercise helps you lose weight, improve your mood, get more energized, sleep better, take your mind off negative thoughts, cope in a healthy way, and release happy chemicals. Exercise and physical activity are a great way to feel good, get healthy, and have fun. As a general goal, aim for at least 45 minutes of physical activity every day, or schedule five 60-minute workouts per week. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns.
Depression is not just a state of mind. It is a state of the brain. This is particularly true of people who have Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. The above image compares the activity levels of different areas of a depressed brain versus a healthy brain. Here, a P.E.T. scan (Positive Emission Tomography) is used to produce an image of a cross section of a living human brain. It works by administering a radioactive tracer dye in the blood stream. This tracer, usually FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), enters neurons just as normal glucose would. When a neuron is active, it burns glucose for energy by metabolizing it and splitting it apart. Because the neuron treats the FDG as regular glucose, it is metabolized as well. The difference is that, once split, the FDG releases radioactive particles that are detected by the P.E.T. machine. After detection is complete, a computer produces an image of brain tissue. Active brain tissue is represent by the colors orange and yellow. Inactive tissue is more green and blue. The difference in images is stark and unsettling. How could someone with Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder function and feel good with such a hypoactive brain? Often, the answer is that they don’t. These illnesses are truly brain disorders, and must be understood with that taken into consideration. Of significance, when someone with a depressive disorder responds well to treatment, brain activity begins to normalize as seen with follow-up scans.
Contrary to popular opinion or the rules set down by the authorities riding a bicycle facing traffic is much safer than riding with traffic in the opinion of the author. When riding against traffic, a person can see what is coming and get off the highway when traffic gets too close.
There should also be proper lights, reflectors, bells or hors, etc. The NJ law states that a helmet should be worn by anyone 17 or younger. They should be in good condition and properly inflated. Brakes should be properly lubricated and be checked periodically for safety adjustments.
Apparel worn while riding can be very important. Avoid dark clothing. Reflective clothing could be very valuable. Lugs, chains, bolts, seats, handle bars, etc. should be checked periodically for safety and comfort. The help of a professional should be sought out during questionable adjustments and upkeep.
Per William Shakespeare “Neither a borrower or lender be!”
The worst is to lose a bike or have damage done to a bike is to lend someone your bike. People generally are less caring and/or protective of your property than they are of their own. I recommend you don’t be a "goody-two shoes "(Nice guy)
just to appease and/or be liked by the other person.
Since bicycles are a major source of transportation, in particular in Asbury Park, it is generally a good idea to avoid leaving the bike there.
Carrie Fisher, another celebrity death, common place, perhaps. We lost Robin Williams not that many years ago, there is a connection here. Both lived with (most people say suffered from) mental illness. Another “drug user” some might say, and yes have both of them admitted to using drugs. She came out with her illness before it became “popular” for celebrities. She also spoke about her addiction to drugs. Her autopsy results showed that that she was using them. Which is common for plenty of people who have mental illness to use them to cope with it.
Carrie Fisher got the conversation going about her mental illness and her addiction to drugs. Back when many people just hid it away from friends and family. She didn’t want those who live with it to feel shame because of it. She wanted an open conversation between those who live with it and those who don’t have mental illness. She wanted to break the stigma behind it, for there to be open discussion about it. The fact that drugs might have caused her death should not tarnish her as a person.
I found this on my personal Facebook page from a friend, and this was my response to it on her post:
“I understand, I used to think badly of all people using drugs until I got diagnosed with. I met plenty of people with drug and alcohol addictions. As I got to know them, as people, I lost that judgment, they were some really good people who were struggling with many issues and using and abusing was a way to cover up what felt. I know that not every drug abuser or alcoholic have mental illness, but a good majority are. So she did some drugs, like this stated she is a bad ass, to live with mental illness and get into movies or for the non-famous (us common folk) just getting up and go to work on a daily is too. I’m also including veterans who have fought for this country, mostly older vets and some of the ones retuning home now. The horrors that they saw and the never ending battles that they fight in their heads. Drugs is one way they cope with it as the government doesn’t do much for them. Don’t judge what you don’t understand. “
She was an influence early on when most people, not just in Hollywood, didn’t want to talk about mental illness. It was kept quiet and hardly ever bought to light. This should not diminish her part the she took into getting this to be talked about in the open about. I’m going leave you with that thought and leave you with some quotes of hers. Carrie Fisher you will always be “bad ass” not only as your role as the only big female in the original Star Wars trilogy but in what you have done in the mental health community. Rest in peace.
‘I’m mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving that, but being it on. Better me then you.” ~ December 2000 in an interview with Diane Sawyer.
“ One of the things that baffles me ( and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder . In my opinion living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from inside.) At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with mental illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with a steady stream of medication.” ~ From Wishful Drinking
The secret is out. The anesthetic drug, ketamine, can save lives for people with severe depressive disorders. It is being introduced in hospital emergency rooms as a rapid-acting antidepressant to treat people who have become suicidal. Patients can respond favorably in as little as one or two hours. By contrast, an antidepressant drug like Prozac can take weeks to work. In the hospital setting, ketamine is given intravenously (IV). The drug is infused as 0.5 mg/kg body weight over 40-45 minutes. This is a dose substantially lower than those used for anesthesia. It is also lower than what is used recreationally as “Special K’ to produce dissociative and psychotomimetic psychological effects.
Some of the earliest research for the use of ketamine in depression was conducted at the NIMH division of the National Institutes of Health. It was studied as a treatment for those people with Bipolar Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder who did not respond to traditional antidepressants. It was found that a substantial number of antidepressant non-responders responded to a single ketamine infusion within a few hours. Unfortunately, the therapeutic effect disappeared within a few days to a week. Eventually, it was determined that a patient can receive booster or maintenance doses once per month. Some people can go longer. Many patients are able to return to a life without depression.
Going for ketamine IV infusions once per month is inconvenient and expensive. Some doctors now offer ketamine as a nasal spray (intranasal) instead. Ketamine is very cheap. When prescribed for intranasal administration, one cannot simply have it filled at their local pharmacy. A compounding pharmacy is needed to create a liquid from the ketamine powder. As with IV ketamine, the dosage of intranasal ketamine must be well-controlled. Intranasal ketamine is often given as 40 mg doses, 5-7 days apart. However, it does happen that some people who do not respond to intranasal ketamine go on to respond to intravenous ketamine.
The dosing of ketamine needs to be precise. The reason for this is that too low a dosage doesn’t work, and too high a dosage produces dissociative states and even psychosis. Pharmaceutical companies have been trying to develop other drugs that do the same thing as ketamine on a biological level, but without the dissociative psychological side effects. Like ketamine, these drugs cause a blocking of a gate on neurons (nerve cells) that normally let in a neurotransmitter messenger molecule known as glutamate. This gate is controlled by a special receptor called the NMDA (N-Methyl-D-Aspartate) receptor. It was thought that blocking the NMDA receptor was critical to the mechanism by which ketamine worked to treat depression. The drugs in development are bound to be expensive. It turns out, though, that ketamine may not depend on NMDA at all. Ketamine is broken-down (metabolized) naturally in the liver into a substance known as HNK (hydroxynorketamine). HNK does not work on NMDA receptors at all. Instead, it causes an increase in the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF stimulates the brain to grow new neurons (neurogenesis) and support those that already exist (neurotrophy). New neurons are formed in the hippocampus and cortical regions of the brain. These structures have been implicated in the development of depressive disorders. This yields a very important conclusion. HNK can be used without worrying about dissociative and psychotomimetic effects. Dosing does not need to be precise, and the drug can be given orally.
Ketamine doesn’t help everyone. It seems that a minority of people have a type of gene that causes BDNF to be manufactured less efficiently. Most people have the val66val gene that allows for the most efficient synthesis of BDNF. They respond almost completely to ketamine. However, others with the met66val gene respond less well, and those with met66met don’t respond at all. BDNF stimulates the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus structure of the brain. The hippocampus is responsible for regulating memory and emotions. In depression, the size of the hippocampus is reduced. When people respond to traditional antidepressants, there is an increase in neurogenesis there, and an increase in size.
For now, empirical evidence supports the use of ketamine in depressive disorders. Hopefully, its therapeutic biological mechanisms will be better understood with continued study, leading to better treatments for depression with fewer side effects. The ketamine metabolite, HNK, might be the ideal alternative to ketamine.
by Susan Mazzeo
I am standing on the start line in Durban South Africa, again. It is 5:00 in the morning, but with all the activity going on it might as well be 12:00 in the middle of the day. Two years ago I was here, in this very same spot, sort of. I was actually curled up against the chain link fence trying to get the last bit of sleep before the start gun went off. I think I was really trying to block out what I knew deep in my heart was going to be a disaster of a day. This is Comrades. The Human Race as they call it. Their motto is Zinikele, South African for It Takes All of You. And it does. 87 kilometers starting in Durban and finishing in Pietermaritzburg. For the non-metric group, that equals 54 miles. The race runs between these two cities each year. So one year you go down, and the next up. This was an up year, which means we start at sea level and end 2,300 feet above sea level. There are 7,000 feet of elevation on the course and 4,700 feet of descent. The highest point is 2,800 feet. Oh, and did I mention the Big 5? Not the Big 5 you might find on a game reserve, but the big 5 as in hills, specifically: Cowies, Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill, Inchanga and the biggest of them all Polly Shorts.
Did I also mention you need to finish the race in 12 hours? If you do not you cannot cross the finish line. At 11:59 a human wall starts to hinge across the finish line blocking the runners from crossing as the clock hit 12 hours. And if that isn’t enough, there are six check points you need to make while on the course or you get pulled out of the race. Two years ago I missed the fourth cut off and wound up in a rescue bus. I was pretty disappointed. I went home thought about things and decided to give it another go.
So, here I am on the start line. But this time I am not curled up against the fence. I am participating in all of the pre-race festivities. I shake my neighbors hand, to the left, right and back of me. I join in the singing of Shosholoza, the South African National Anthem. It is 5 stanzas, each one sung in a different official language of the country. It is a musical lesson in multiculturalism and unity. The pride South Africans feel toward their country is so genuine. The entire field is singing and the energy is electrifying. Next is the playing of Chariots of Fire, then the traditional cock crowing, the start gun and the race is off. I listen to all the advice I had been given and do not go out too fast. The race actually starts off uphill and it is easy to get caught up in all the excitement and start out too fast. That is part of what happened two years ago and I was not about to let it happen again.
I plug along and before I know it I catch up with the sub -12 hour pace bus. That is what they call pace groups in this race, buses and the pace leader is the bus driver. Our bus driver is full of energy and positivity. I normally don’t like pace groups but I like her. We are a big group and still, she manages to remember the majority of our names. We use a walk run strategy, walk the hills and run the downs and flats. We don’t meander; it is walking with a purpose. She will count down from 10 and we know we will start to walk and she does it again and we know we will start to run. We pass the second cut-off and the runner next to me points out we beat it by 20 minutes. I vow to stick to her like glue. It is hot and the sun is relentless, but still our driver encourages us to look around and pay attention to the scenery. We pass through neighborhoods that remind me of Coral Gables in Florida. Comrades, to South Africans, is what the Super Bowl is to Americans. All South Africans are encouraged to run it and unlike the New York Marathon, which has very few New Yorkers in it and costs over $200 to participate, Comrades is made up of mostly South Africans, a little over 19,000 in a field of 24,000 and it costs them about 250 rand or $25. The entire race, all 12 hours is televised. And if South Africans are not running the race, watching it on TV, they are spectating along the course and I mean the entire course, all 87 kilometers. It is one long party. I saw one group with a full bar complete with stools, and Steve Miller blasting from the speakers they set up. Another had couches and coffee tables pulled out to the side of the road, and everyone it seemed, was barbecuing. The spectators are prepared for the runners too. They hand out all kinds of sandwiches, candy, ice pops, and my new favorite: salted oranges. On a hot day salt becomes your best friend.
We pass an all boys prep school, Comrades answer to the Boston Marathon’s Wellesley College and their infamous Scream Machine. Instead of screaming, these boys, who are dressed in their school blazers and striped ties politely encourage us on. Our names are printed on our bib s and I hear, “Go Sue- san” in their beautiful sing-songy accent. I hear “Welcome to South Africa”, “Welcome to our country”, a lot. It makes me think of what is happening at home. I am not sure we are so welcoming these days. This is the first race I have ever been in where I am the minority all the way around: race, ethnicity and gender. There are only 4,000 women in the race in total, 197 Americans and still I do not feel like an outsider. It is humbling and a valuable lesson.
The kilometers, which begin at 87 and work down, are clicking off one by one. I start to feel bad and I use every trick in the book I know. I pray: 10 Hail Mary’s, an Our Father and a Glory Be, the only part of the rosary I know; I smile at everyone around me, although I think it must appear more of a grimace; I talk to the runners next to me. I meet some pretty cool and interesting people. I remind myself it is okay to feel uncomfortable, after all I am running uphill in 80 degree heat. When it seems like this isn’t working, I remind myself how bad I felt two years ago when I did not finish. And then as if she can read my thoughts, our bus driver shouts out, “Sue-san, are you getting a medal today”? “Yes”, I shout back, “I am”.
At 42 kilometers, the halfway point we pass Arthur’s seat. Arthur Newton, five- time winner of Comrades was said sit in this very spot, a small hole in a stone wall and take a break to smoke his pipe. Runners passing this spot need to put a flower in the hole or at least tip their hat and say “Good morning Arthur” to ensure a successful second half of the race. None of us are taking any chances and there are many flowers placed and many “Good morning Arthur’s”. Shortly after that we pass the Ethembeni School. It is a local school for children with physical disabilities. They line the streets in their wheelchairs, hands held out for high fives. It is a good reality check to remind myself no matter what, I wake up the next day with two legs to walk on.
My mom came with me this year and she is waiting for me on the course with 25 kilometers to go. I see her just past the point where I got pulled out last time and it is a huge motivator to pass that point. She jumps in and runs with me a bit. I convert the kilometers into miles and realize I have 15 to go. This is a regular Sunday run at home and I imagine myself in Hartshorne Woods with my running buddies and I am having a lovely conversation with Molly, who trained with me every single Sunday. I know my family and friends are tracking me and I am determined to keep that line they are watching moving forward.
At 21 kilometers, my drink is waiting for me at a pre-arranged fuel stop. While there I am asked if I want a massage. “Yes”, I reply, “I think I do”. And two volunteers, one for each leg give me the best standing up quad massage I have ever had. As much as I would love to stand there all day, I have to get moving. I have fallen off the bus. I can see the flag way ahead of me and it seems like an insurmountable distance. Earlier that week I was reading about race day strategy and I decide to employ the recommended run 200 paces, walk 100 paces. Off I go, counting 200 running steps then 100 walking. Counting helps to occupy my mind and all of a sudden I am back on the bus. I climb on never to get off until we are finished.
Run and walk, run and walk and before I know it, there are 10 kilometers to go. Some the runner next to me tells me I don’t even look like I am sweating. I have to laugh since my visor feels like it is glued to my head and I might need to cut it off with a scissor.
Closer and closer we get until the only hill left is Polly Shorts. If you are at all familiar with Holmdel Park and its infamous 5 kilometer course with its uphill start then you will understand when I say Polly Shorts is like the start at Holmdel, on steroids, times five. And it comes about 50 miles into the race. I have run the Holmdel course many times and sometimes I get it, most times it gets me but on occasion it is a draw. Today with Polly, it is a draw and that is good enough for me. Up an over we go and through the last check point. I know now, there was no way I am not finishing.
We make our way to the Scottsville Racecourse. I can hear the announcer. We have run a steady race and have time to spare. I enter the fair grounds to a deafening crowd. They are blasting “We Will Rock You” by Queen and the spectators are banging in time on the boards lining the course. We round the track and there is the finish line. It is an amazing moment and I relish it. I can’t believe it. Finally after two years of waiting I cross the line and finish in 11:51. I hear a collective roar all the way from Fair Haven and Point Pleasant and Jupiter and Miami and Oahu and Hawthorne East Vic.
I normally do not care about medals, but this one I want. I worked hard for this medal. The funny thing is, it is the smallest, simplest medal I have ever received. I will treasure it always.
I make my way to the International Tent where my mom is waiting for me. I will tell you; you are never too old to have your mom take care of you. I am so happy she is here and so grateful we are able to share this. We make our way back to the hotel to a hot shower, a steak dinner and a glass of wine, all while enjoying the glow of a job well done.
The next day as I am leaving the porter congratulates me and reminds me, you are not a true Comrade until you run both the Up and the Down. Hmmmm…
Boundaries. Lines that are constantly being crossed unless they are aggressively being drawn. Who has faced a moment when their boundaries have been breached? I struggle with this battle everyday and I am slowly learning how to be more and more aggressive with knowing how to draw the line when it matters…not just for the moment, but for yourself, to keep you level.
My sister who is a minister says, “We always have to recognize when we have to put up boundaries. If you're seeing some red flags about what you can take on or the validity of the relationship then don't ignore those things. Be wise and pray.”
I’m currently reading a book called Telling Yourself the Truth. I have a serious issue with being down on myself. Insecurity and anxiety have taken so much out of me. It rules my life to the point where I feel shackled with chains very often. I’m learning if I tell myself untruths and lies (for example), “I must please people”. This is a misbelief. The theory is, our feelings are not caused by our circumstances of past or present. Our feelings are caused by what we tell ourselves about our circumstances. What I think and believe determine how I feel and what I do. The most important factors of my mental or emotional life are my beliefs and misbeliefs. It’s all about negative thinking. Persistent painful feelings are contrary to Gods will. The goal is to change fundamental negative beliefs in me to the point where I will energetically and actively set about to be rid of them permanently.
Sigmund Freud said that “love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” I don’t know if this is true, but studies have shown definitively that meaningful work can be as important to recovery from mental illness as different types of therapy. While few (if any) of us can ever expect to become completely free of symptoms of mental illness, the right match can help you to reduce stress, find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health.
Experts say that people who work or volunteer have longer life spans, lower blood pressure, more regularly-exercised brains, take less medication, and use fewer medical services than their unemployed counterparts. Working people also recover from illness more quickly and are less susceptible to long-term illness and incapacity. Working and/or volunteering is especially beneficial for the physical and mental health of seniors.
Furthermore, according to Mental Health America, “working at something that is meaningful to you can bring you a sense of purpose that will anchor you.” Of course, this is just what many of us need: something to increase our feelings of self-worth, help us to reach personal goals, and enable us to meet new people. We need to feel and be connected to our communities and working and/or volunteering is a great way to achieve that connection.
For some people, having a mental illness doesn’t largely impact their ability to work. Others find themselves with quite limited capabilities after the onset of mental illness. However, once one is stable, s/he can generally find something meaningful to do that is suited to the skills or interests that s/he currently has. The key is to always have a goal. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation, which is as important for those living with mental illness as it is for anyone else. Perhaps it is even more important for us.
Living with a serious mental illness can rob you of many things that most view as fundamental needs: a healthy sense of self; a sense of accomplishment; motivation to complete even the most simple of tasks, such as brushing one’s teeth or making a grocery list. Goals help with all of these things and give us something to look forward to.
Of course, there are [things] that might make going to work seem impractical for someone with a mental health condition. Decreased energy, frequent medical appointments, and explaining long gaps in your resume, to name a few. However, there are ways to manage potential obstacles (such as with minor accommodations), as well as various supports that are available to help those who need them, such as the Shore House R & D unit, friends and family, and Employment Specialists. In the end, the benefits far outweigh the risks in most cases.
“The Health Benefits of Volunteering,” Office of Research and Policy Development, Corporation for National & Community Service, 2007.
“Volunteering May Be Good for Body and Mind,” Stephanie Watson, Harvard Health Publications, 2013.
“The Retirement Project,” The Urban Institute, 2006.
“Benefits of Working,” Fit For Work, 2017.
“Is Work Good for Your Health and Well-Being?” Gordon Waddell & A. Kim Burton, 2006.
On March 31st 2017 I packed my bags and got rid of things I didn’t need; I said my last goodbyes and gave my last hugs. On April 1st, the next day, I took my bags, hopped on the plane and headed to California. I had no plans for who I was staying with; I had no plans to adopt any 9-5 jobs and I had no plans for earning money. The only thing I knew, was to follow my spirit, and I did just that.
California had been calling me for some time now. At first I thought it was just a fun idea to come out here with my boys, do our music, perform and explore. So for a while I had put the idea off. One year went by and the voices of my spirits become stronger. Everything around me had said California. From T shirts, to books, down to a brand of veggie burgers. I was even having a random conversation about cats, and the lady I spoke with told me that she knew a cat that was oddly called Cali. This was how I knew I could no longer stray from what the great divine was trying to tell me: that there is something out there for me.
Because I chose to make that big decision to leave New Jersey, and go on “blind faith”, I was rewarded with a safety net, staying with two friends, one of whom I’ve known for 14 years now. Staying with like-minded people like myself, I’ve been given the gift of living with other healers with great humor, compassion and purpose. The only job I have been working on, is the original one the Lord has given me: which is to work on my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. I have a good chunk of change in my pocket, and I am not worried about anything.
I’ve been told that home is where the heart is; that no matter where you go, you are home; you are free. I agree with this. I also know to follow my spirit when it calls me to move forward on my journey. I was meant to come to Cali to get completely out of my comfort zone. Had I stayed in Jersey I would have spent money frivolously, stayed in my doubtful state of mind, taking everything for granted and would have kept myself trapped in a dark box of self-doubt. Making this move meant, I couldn’t spend too carelessly because I didn’t know the next time I would receive any money and from where. It meant being in an area that I am not at all familiar with, so that I couldn’t leech on anybody that I knew to hang onto in order to hang on to old habits. Being out here, where the sun is always out, using a fresh state for a fresh state of mind is what I needed. There is more to come while I am still here.
I am coming back to New Jersey. When I am finished with my ascension, I will come back stronger, more peaceful, more purposeful, with more light, love and wisdom so that I can come back home, to make some beautiful changes.
Blog posts are written by Shore House members and staff.