Gratitude

I have recently started journalling where I write down ten things I am grateful for each day. I believe this is important to me as it conditions my mind towards positivity and as a result I am less likely to get angry and fearful of what might happen in the future; these have been my biggest struggles. It really does work! I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to improve the way they think.

I have so many things to be grateful for, big and small. I wrote down simple things as having enough food to eat and sleeping in a warm bed at night to things like being married to a loving and caring wife. I’m fortunate to live in Australia as we have freedom of speech and religion and statistics show we are among the top 5% of wealthiest countries in the world, among countries such as the US, UK and Germany. When I look at it from that perspective, I realise how blessed I am.

It’s easy to lose perspective of things like that when you have pressures, stresses and responsibilities in your life but that is the power of having an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful for what you do have and the positive things in your life rather than focusing on what you DON’T have. The last thing you want is to compare yourself to others and become envious of what they have that you don’t. Instead, say to yourself “My life might not be perfect but there are so many good things that I am thankful for”. It’s extremely worthwhile getting into the habit of regular journalling like I have done. It doesn’t take long – no more than 5 minutes a day – so no excuses. Start journalling!

Modifying diet

Both my wife and I have been on a weight loss journey for the past several months. Since we started, Karthi has lost over 21 kilos and I’ve shed over 15 kilos. This is very encouraging as we look back on where we started and realise how much progress we’ve made. We are both following the classical plan of weight loss: a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. There are certainly no short cuts towards achieving long term results and increased fitness.

My personal trainer advised me that on any weight loss journey, diet contributes 70% and exercise contributes only 30%. This is significant because we tend to intuitively believe that exercise contributes as much to weight loss as diet, if not more. Karthi started the ketogenic diet, which is basically a low carb high fat diet, after being inspired by a “YouTuber” who lost 22 kg on this diet. More information on the diet and ketosis can be found here: authoritynutrition.com/ketogenic-diet-101 At a certain point in time ketosis starts, where the body produces ketones and it can produce energy entirely from the fat and in the process burn fat. Karthi’s goal is to reach 50 kg and she is well on the way to achieving that.

On the advice of my personal trainer at the gym, I started a diet where I was able to eat more carbs in the morning and as time passed in the day eat less carbs and more protein. It was a struggle at the start as I had to give up rice for dinner and I didn’t really get going with the diet and seriously follow it until we got back from our trip to Sydney last October. I modified my diet accordingly in line with my PT’s advice. My goal was to go from 96 kg to 85 kg. I must admit that I didn’t always follow my diet but losing the first 5 kg was relatively easy. Losing the next 6 kg were much harder and my weight was up and down (as is typical when one tries to lose weight). Karthi walks regularly for at least an hour each time and she can feel the difference in her fitness.

I was working hard at the gym but I wasn’t losing weight as quickly as I wanted because I lacked discipline at times. However I persevered and reached 85 kg. After discussing with my PT, I adjusted my goal to 80 kg. I was attempting to incorporate more servings of fruits and vegetables into my diet and at the same time drastically cut down on junk such as chocolate and high fat foods such as burgers and chips. Cutting down on chocolate was harder than anything else but I had to do it and take my weight loss seriously. I’m happy to say that I’m now 80.6 kg and endeavouring to lose that last 0.6 kg to reach my goal weight.

Neither of our diets are easy to follow but we both persisted and are getting the results we want. We’ve both deviated from them from time to time but we realised that we needed persistence and discipline to get back on track and reach our goal weights. On the next blog I will focus on exercise and the part it plays in health and fitness.

Mindfulness

We all tend to live busy lives nowadays. Being in a hurry to get the kids to school, get to work on time while stuck in traffic, both partners working while raising kids and fitting in commitments 6 or possibly 7 days a week. Too many things to do and not enough time to do everything. I have experienced this with my wife often in recent times.

Taking time out for ourselves is difficult but necessary. Mindfulness is a recent buzzword, however it has existed for several centuries . It is a form of meditation where you simply sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take deep breaths. To guide me through this process, I use an app called simple habits It is designed to focus our minds and get rid of all the unwanted clutter. For many years I have struggled with having an overactive mind and thinking too much. 

I have recently started practicing mindfulness and I see the benefits. I have a clear and focused mind and the distracting, negative thoughts are much less frequent.  It does make a difference in your outlook on life when you engage in mindfulness for a few minutes a day. It is worth setting aside a small part of your day to do this. You will love life more and have an inner peace which you deserve.

Physical health

I honestly truly believe that looking after our physical body is the key to true physical health and fitness. These two aspects go hand in hand, much like a horse and carriage in the 19th century. Good health is fundamental to being able to function in life and get through each day. On the other hand, a high level of fitness gives you more energy and vitality and makes your body function more efficiently.

In the last year I have tried my best to improve my fitness by going to the gym, employing the services of a personal trainer and starting to run regularly (more so in the last 4-5 months). I have managed to get my weight down from 96 kg to 81 kg due to better nutrition and regular exercise. Losing these 15 kilos is an achievement I am really proud of. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my personal trainer and learning self-discipline when it came to my diet.

Many of us are fundamentally healthy but are lacking in fitness. This is primarily due to lifestyle, either through a poor diet with too much consumption of fat, sugar and salt and/or a lack of regular exercise. This can be corrected quite easily through a genuine desire to improve your level of fitness and changing your lifestyle to suit your individual goals. It takes hard work to lose weight and become fit and there are no shortcuts. It’s never too late to make changes but sooner is better than later. You must have a strong hope that you can experience change your physical fitness. Once you choose hope, anything is possible.

Making a difference

Health is a holistic concept, and true health encompasses mind, body and soul (or spirit). Therefore good mental health must also be accompanied by physical health and fitness and spiritual wellness. My focus has been on mental health thus far, however I will focus more on the other aspects of health in future posts.

I hope that my previous blogs have been a source of encouragement to those who have experienced, or are experiencing, mental health issues. I am particularly passionate about helping youth and their struggles during the adolescent years leading into young adulthood. Headspace (www.headspace.org.au) is a great organisation in Australia dedicated to promoting the well-being of Australians aged 12-25. This includes early intervention mental health services among other services.

I wish to get in touch with someone from Headspace and inquire about volunteering opportunities within their organisation. The main reason for this is that I wish to study a Diploma of Youth Work, most likely in Semester 1 next year. Volunteering at Headspace would be enormously beneficial as it is hands on experience in helping and communicating with young people. Sadly, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people, accounting for one-third of all deaths. This is closely linked with mental health issues within the youth. Headspace exists to reduce the incidence of, and ultimately prevent, youth suicide. I believe this is an organisation we could all get behind and support their mission and vision.

I have learned that living beyond myself is vital to having a successful and productive life. My life is not all about me. I can use my personal struggles to help others going through similar issues. Making a difference in whatever sphere of life you find yourself is hugely rewarding and satisfying. That is the kind of purpose that we all need to be striving for.

Breaking down barriers

Mental health is something that is not frequently talked about, particularly mental illness. It is almost taboo in Australian society and, I suspect, the majority of societies around the world. There has been stigma around mental illness and it has often been misunderstood. However, this has changed in recent years as people have become more willing to open up and have conversations. This is a strong sign that progress is being made.

As I have stated in a previous post, I struggled with depression and anxiety and this was crippling for me. I felt isolated and demotivated and living each day was tough. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder was difficult and humbling. Looking back I felt that other people didn’t understand what I was going through and that I was alone. Of course, this was a lie. I reached out and sought help and my life slowly but surely improved. I was given the tools to manage my condition and live a good life.

I think that people with good mental health need to try and be more empathetic and understanding of those who suffer from mental illness. If you know someone who has depression, don’t tell them they’re feeling sad and get over it. Self-education is key and there is plenty of information available which would benefit everybody. We must care for each other and show love and support to those closest to us.

Finding out about bipolar

The next challenge in my journey was that my psychiatrist diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder about 12 years ago (he told me the diagnosis in 2010 only when I asked him about it). It was quite confronting at first, as I was unsure what it meant. When I later found out it was a mood disorder, I understood more about it and it explained my sudden mood swings on occasion. I was prescribed lithium, which is a mood stabilizing medication which helped me to regulate sharp variations in my mood so that I could get through each day. Specifically, mania is the high mood where I felt on top of the world and depression is low mood but I never experienced severe bouts of depression.

I disclosed my bipolar to only my closest friends. Thankfully they were understanding and sympathetic as they learned what I was going through. I struggled to accept my diagnosis, however I felt encouraged after I read a book about Bipolar Disorder. It explained the symptoms, the best ways to manage my condition and how I could live a normal and productive life by setting goals and achieving them. Having healthy relationships and a good  support network is highly important to me.

I now know that anyone who has a mental illness is not defined by that illness. To say that “I’m bipolar” is inaccurate, I just happen to have Bipolar Disorder and I am managing it the best way I know how. I am in a happy place now mainly due to my faith which has given me peace and kept my feet on the ground. I feel God has truly blessed me in so many ways and I have a lot to be grateful for.  This is the light at the end of the tunnel I wrote about in my last post. My hope and prayer is that this encourages others out there who may be suffering from a mental illness.

Overcoming anxiety and depression

An extremely important decision in my life was accepting Jesus as my saviour and lord. I was invited to church by one of my dad’s patients who is a strong Christian. I had peace in my life knowing my sins were forgiven, however I continued to have struggles as I faced a further road of mental ilness.

The next step in my mental health journey caused me some degree of difficulty. My psychiatrist diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), coupled with relatively mild depression. This caused me to feel anxiety for no good reason and shy away from social contact. It was an irrational fear of perceived danger. Spending little time in the presence of people contributed to my depression as I felt the friends I had in the past had moved on with life and I was stuck in a rut.

I was able to overcome my GAD, however I was in and out of employment and I chose a couple of jobs that weren’t well suited to my abilities, hence I could not hold down a job for a significant period of time. Unemployment caused me to feel down but not seriously depressed. Things started to turn in 2007 when I met a lady who was known to my parents and she felt a connection to me and wanted to help me.  I got to know her and quickly realized how blessed I was to have her in my life.

My family friend aunt put her heart and soul into me finding employment and thus moving forward in life. I was able to find my first corporate job later in that year and feel settled and happy for the first time in quite a while. I felt good knowing I could work effectively and meet new work colleagues despite my mental illness. The work itself was somewhat mundane but I could do it well and that boosted my self-esteem. I had walked through the tunnel and I felt I had stepped into the light and came out of the other side.

 

 

Opening up about my mental health journey

Dear readers,

It is wonderful to be on a blogging site such as WordPress for the very first time. It is a joy and privilege to be sharing my thoughts and feelings with you all. I am from Melbourne Australia and I am married to Karthi who is a beautiful, loving and caring. I have a loving family unit and I am so blessed to have supportive parents who have been exceedingly patient with me and shown plenty of love too. I work in the state government department and have done so for 6 and a half years.

At the age of 23 I realised not all was well with me mentally. I was basically a selfish person and I had a lot of anger towards my parents and we fought regularly. These issues contributed to me struggling with my studies at university. I was temperamental and somewhat reckless and lived life the way I wanted but I was on a path to self destruction. My parents, who are both doctors, referred me to a psychiatrist who assessed me in the initial consultation and came to the conclusion that I did not have a significant mental illness but I could keep seeing him and tell him about my problems. This caused me to look inside myself and realise I needed help as my mental health was not perfect like I thought before the first meeting with my psychiatrist.

Over the course of the first year of psychiatric consultations I really had to look deep inside myself and answer his questions to the best of my ability. After seeing him once every two weeks the frequency of the visits decreased to once a month. I was initially diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder mixed with mild depression. Basically, it was being anxious for no good reason, an irrational fear etc. It was a tough year, it was hard to get out of the house and my default was to sit on the couch and watch television. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to and that no one understood what I was going through. The sense of isolation was crippling and the depression worsened this feeling.

The medication I was taking for my condition helped to an extent but the same issues and problems were still there. I needed ways to cope and I made a few poor choices in that regard so I suppose I was crying out for help and guidance. When this was lacking there was a sense of hopelessness and despair. In my next post I will reveal how I found a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned!

Much love,

Tyronne