April 11, 2016

Landscaping therapy

(In which I think about how I never exercise)

I spent most of the weekend landscaping my front yard.  As a birthday present my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Mary's dad all pitched in Sunday morning as well.  That may have been the best birthday present I've ever received.  Today I am extremely sore.  I was using muscles I don't normally use and pushing my weak-ass body to its limits.

It feels like it's been beaten into my head that exercise is good for me and that a sedentary lifestyle can cause all sorts of health issues.  As someone with mental illness I know that there's research out there show that exercise can reduce depression.  It's one of the suggestions that always annoy me.

Me: "I think I might need to adjust my medication."
Doctor/friend/loved one/my internal critic: "You know that exercise can really help depression.  You should try that."
Me: "You should go fuck yourself."

Yes I know I should be exercising.  Yes I know it's lazy to just want to take medication and that be enough.  Yes I know I need to manage my life carefully to handle stress so I avoid mania and depression.  Yes I know that if I did all the right things maybe I wouldn't need to rely on my medication as much as I do.  Yes yes yes... I get it.  Are you running your life perfectly?

My aches and pains have prompted me to think about exercise and what it might be like to have a job where I was outside and working my body.  What if I were a professional landscaper?  Would my mental illness be less severe if I weren't a telecommuting code monkey that was indoors for days at a time?  It relates to the question of whether there are things (such as a crisis or grueling labor) that can take our minds off our mental illness to such an extent we seem "normal". I think a crisis definitely can for a limited amount of time. As long as the depression has not gotten completely debilitating, I think we manage to put ourselves on the back burner so to speak. But that can only last so long. What about all day long exposure to the outdoors with strenuous exertion?

Suppose we have two versions of me. Code monkey and landscaper. How might they react to the same kind of stress?

Telecommuting code monkeyLandscaper
Minor trigger in the morningMinor dip in moodMinor dip in mood
Stare mindlessly at computer all dayWork ass off in the sunshine
Exit home office, still at homeCommute home, transition away from work
Not physically tired, mentally drainedPhysically exhausted
Question: What is my mood now?Same or worse? Haven't been transported out of myself enough to forget the trigger?Same or better? Physical exertion helped me recover?

This is simplistic I know, yet I do wonder.  Am I in the right profession?  Rather than seeing my pdoc to adjust my meds, maybe I should change jobs?  And isn't this about life management in general?  Hey maybe it's not your illness... maybe it's the weed you're smoking, the alcohol you're drinking, the toxic relationship you're maintaining, and on and on and on.  Mental illness is like having to do life management on steroids... with the added bonus of medications.

Image credit: Flickr

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