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There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the media lately.  Mostly because of people with extreme circumstances.  I really don’t want to get in to the politics of it all but I believe there should be more that is done for people with mental health problems.  Helping to break down the taboos is, as far as I can tell, the best way for me to help the situation.  Among my friends and family I speak very openly about my mental health status and sometimes I’m criticized for it.  For the most part, however, the reception has been warm.

What’s Going On In My Head?

So what is my mental health status?  I have been diagnosed with ADD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in 5th grade and Anxiety only a few years ago in 2005.  I was treated for ADD as school age kid but quit taking Ritalin when I graduated from high school in 1994.  For most of my adult life I have had no problems.  I studied film in college and most of the teaching was very hands on.  As a visual learner this was the best way for me to learn.  What wasn’t hands on, I worked very hard at.  I got through college with very good grades and began a career.  It wasn’t long before I married my wife and was a husband and step-dad.

It is quite common for guys (and probably girls) like me to have a lot of success without treatment until we settle in to life and then have problems.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of success finding good treatment (until recently) so I gave up for a while.

The Problems I Had

So why do I need treatment?  An ADD brain craves stimulation.  There are certain instances where I thrive but this need for stimulation can cause problems.  I can be very impulsive and unpleasant to be around when I get stressed and feel the need to “vent”.  The anxiety side of me created a different set of problems.  I would become very defensive in public situations, especially when confronting conflict.  Many times I just stayed home when I didn’t think I could handle the task.  I often feared what would happen if, for example, my bank card didn’t work, I needed more documentation or showed up at the wrong time.  Honestly, I felt as if I was withdrawing from life.  I hardly ever get out of the house unless I’m with my wife and kids or I’m going to work.  My mental health was definitely affecting my life.

And Then I Got Treatment

I finally found an excellent doctor who is helping me.  She considers all of my reservations about taking certain medications and has prescribed just what I needed to improve my quality of life.  Some would say I’m dependent on drugs to be able to handle life.  I’d say with a wife, three kids and a great career that I’ve handled life very well.

What’s This Guy On?

I also want to share with you what I’m taking.  Not because I simply want to talk about what I take but because it demonstrates that you can get an effective treatment without having troubles like side effects or becoming addicted to drugs.

The first medication I am on is Xanax.  I’m sure there are mixed feelings about Xanax but I take a very low dosage.  When I have problems with my anxiety or am going to be in a situation where my anxiety typically hinders me, I take a half of a .25 milligram pill.  It doesn’t cause me to zone out or anything like that, it simply takes away my fears and helps me to feel normal.

The second medication I take is called Adderall.   Adderall is a stimulant used for treating ADD.  I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago who said she decided she doesn’t believe in ADD.  She was surprised that I am on medication for my ADD and asked if it makes me feel like a zombie.  With so much misinformation out there about ADD and the medications used for treating it people have just decided that they will ignore the problem in order to just remain normal.  Let me tell you, I am completely the same with Adderall as I am without it except for the fact that I can focus on tasks better and don’t feel so impulsive and stressed out.  I’m still a very creative person, and I’m still good at multitasking.  I’m also enjoying life more.

Full disclosure, Adderall is the third medication I tried.  The first didn’t work enough, the second made me feel like I was in fast forward.  I communicated with my doctor and she worked with me until we got it right.

How This Helps Others

Sharing my story with friends has helped others as well.  I’ve had people come to me and ask me questions about my condition.  A condition, by the way, that doesn’t define who I am, just something I deal with.  Sharing my story may open me up to occasional (slight) criticism but it has opened up a dialog with people to share their struggles with me and we have been able to learn from each other.  In this context it has enhanced my perspective on life.  It has also done the same for those I’ve encountered.

Mental health is a taboo subject.  It shouldn’t be.  You should share your mental health struggles with those around you and seek treatment.  You will also find that your courage will encourage those around you to seek treatment.  You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re improved your quality of life and the life of others.

I’ve been doing some research in to running technique.  I’ve decided I want to work smarter in 2013 instead of working harder.  In fact, I’m making it my New Year’s Resolution.  I plan on finding the best ways to make the most of my workout time.  Today I went out for a run and decided to try out a new running technique I saw in some YouTube videos.  In fact, let me pass this video along to you.

In this video you see one runner, two weeks apart.  On the left she is striking down on her heel and on the right you see her striking with her foot coming down flat.  You will also notice that when she lands her foot flat she brings the opposing foot up much higher than she did in the video on the left.  With a slight forward lean and good posture she uses gravity to push her forward.  The technique on the right is more efficient because she limits the time her foot is on the ground.  Also, from what I understand, when you strike with your heel you slow yourself down slightly before you pull yourself forward.  The more efficient way is to land with your foot flat, without stretching it out in front of you so that you push yourself forward instead of pulling.  This also cuts down on risk of injury.

So how did this work out for me?  I improved my distance by about 25% over Tuesday’s run.  In fact, my legs felt as if they could go a lot further but my lungs are not yet acclimated to running this far.  I have no doubt I can improve my performance a lot quicker than I have in the past.  My biggest barrier is waiting for my lungs to build up their capacity.

When I was running before I would use an app to give me cues as to when I should run and when I should walk.  I’ve decided to map all my runs ahead of time and shoot for distance instead.  My favorite website for mapping my runs is RunningMap.com.  I like it mostly because it isn’t overloaded with menus and the need to sign in first.  I keep an eye on the approximate time it takes me to run certain distances and then put the information in to Wolfram|Alpha to calculate my speed.  I seem to be running my first leg at about 6.5 mph.  This is quite an improvement for me.  Less effort (leg wise) is translating in to faster speeds aka traveling further in the same amount of time.  It’s all about efficiency.

I will say, however, this technique doesn’t make running so easy that I don’t have to worry about drinking enough water or eating properly.  Proper hydration and nutrition will always be essential.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a strong runner but thankfully, with proper technique, I can become strong.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions and how are you working to accomplish them?

The holidays were great.  I took a trip to Michigan and visited friends and family and overindulged on great food but unfortunately, the holidays are over and I have extra weight as a result.  I decided to wait until January 1st to get my act together and that’s what I did yesterday.  I got up and got my act together.

I started the day off with a breakfast of eggs and several glasses of water.  After about an hour I got out and went running.  I had some problems with my running app and my headphones kept popping out of my phone but I didn’t let it stop me.  The weather was too nice, there was too much to lose by quitting and I just didn’t want to stop.  I ended up running a but further than I had anticipated but today I feel pretty good.  My muscles are tired but not sore.  This is encouraging because it tells me I drank enough water and helps me feel good about myself.  That good feeling translates in to my enthusiasm to get out there tomorrow for more running.

While I was running yesterday I was thinking about something.  I’ve heard from people in the past that they decided to start running and just went out and ran a couple miles.  This kind of story has always baffled me because running just isn’t easy for me.  So I went to YouTube for a little research.  I search for “efficient running stride” and found endless videos showing how I can fix my running stride.  This should allow me to run further with less effort.

When I first started running in 2008 I read somewhere that you should strike with your heel first.  According to many videos I watched yesterday this is incorrect.  Not only that but some people suggested that this type of stride could eventually lead to injury.  The correct way, the way the best runners run, is to strike down with a flat foot and limit the amount of time your foot is touching the ground.  This is something I’ll have to work on.  In the end I hope to be a stronger runner.

My lungs weren’t so happy with my running.  This is probably due to the fact that I haven’t been aerobically active in a little while.  When you work out you take in more oxygen.  Your lungs contain Aveoli which are responsible for exchanging gasses with your lungs and blood.  When you do aerobic exercises you form more aveoli.  Also, your lungs are able expand more, your diaphragm loosens and it becomes easier to breathe.  This will only come with time.

So all in all I feel like this has been a fantastic start to 2013! How is your year starting out?

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