When I reflected on the three health conditions that I suffer from, I felt an eerie sense of déjà vu, as though I had seen this situation before. I’ve always taken this as a little indicator that you’re on the right path and need to keep going, as Maureen, one of the fitness instructors at my gym, keeps encouraging me.
It eventually dawned on me where I had seen this situation before. As I explained in an earlier post, I wrote an Honours Dissertation for my law degree, which I obtained nearly 20 years ago (and isn’t cancelled out just because I’m no longer fit to practice law because of my mental illness). In that paper, I explored why damage to reputation is presumed instead of proven in the tort of defamation. I examined the three competing interests that defamation law protects, as outlined by the scholar Robert Post. This led to the revelation that there is tension between these interests and that something has to give. Going back to my three health conditions, I needed to try and find a better solution than (i) taking anti-psychotic drugs continuously because it caused tremendous weight gain and affected my physical health; and (ii) taking them only when relapses occurred, meaning that I was constantly on and off medication, causing me to suffer from psychotic episodes and become stuck in a cycle of gaining and losing weight.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, what has helped me to find a third way forward was actually my passion for running, which I mentioned in my first post in this thread. I’ve been running on and off for 17 years, as I mentioned in my first post in a series I wrote on the subject of running. I learnt about interval training in a book I read about running which was recommended to me by an instructor at the gym I went to while I was a university student. The funny thing was that despite competing in long distance races regularly for just under a decade, I didn’t actually do much interval training in my practice runs. Sometimes you know but then you forget. In short, interval training is where you run very rapidly for a short period of time, followed by a period of active recovery. This led to the idea that I might be able to get away with running a short course of my schizophrenia medication at six month intervals in order to prevent psychotic episodes. This tentative treatment plan goes against the grain. The general principle is that you must take anti psychotic drugs continuously if you need them. This includes anti-depressants. So you don’t forget this, there is a helpful reminder printed on my bottle of risperidone tablets – do not stop taking this medication!
What gave me a framework for implementing this strategy was the YMCA 10k Summer Series. This series of 10k runs starts when daylight saving begins in September and finishes when daylight savings ends in April. The course remains the same throughout the series, making it a nice time trial for competitive runners. While some runners like to brag about their PB, I’ve always felt that you need to compare your performance over an identical course to accurately gauge your speed. After all, you can’t compare oranges with apples. The series is divided into two parts, with a break over the Christmas/New Year period. I participated in two runs at the beginning of 2018 until I had a relapse. When I recovered in April, I thought about how much I would like to return and complete the whole series. Prior to the onset of schizophrenia, being able to compete in the series is something I would have taken for granted. If this new strategy worked, the break over the Christmas/New Year period would give me the opportunity to run a brief course of my meds without interfering with competing in the races. I stopped competing in the series in January as I started feeling unwell but haven’t had a psychotic episode since February last year which is the longest period that I have been relapse free. Could this signify a breakthrough like the parting of the sea in the book of Exodus? While I don’t want to be let down again, this has given me hope for the future. I am also trialling a new strategy of staying awake at night as a means of preventing psychotic episodes. I will report back on the success of these strategies in the future.