Why I Blog The Way I Do, Part 2

mental-health

This entry is a continuation of a previous entry, ‘Why I Blog The Way I Do, Part One‘.  In this post I’ll attempt to explain some more on why I include the things I do and why there are other things I don’t.

I admit I don’t include much scientific information simply because I am not a scientist by nature or training.  I have nothing against science.  I just don’t believe I’m familiar with it enough to explain the methods behind it.  I guess it might be in my personal makeup to accept that if I know something works just from my own personal experience, I don’t necessarily discount that if I don’t truly know how it works.  For someone with a science background, this might seem backwards as a scientist will want to know the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the ‘effect’.  As I don’t have a strong background in science, I simply allow those who do to figure out the how and the why.  I am certainly grateful to those with scientific backgrounds who can easily find such things out.

A second topic I don’t get into is the politics of mental illness treatments/healthcare/etc.  This is not the blog for this.  Yes, I have my opinions like anyone else.  Politics, at least in my home country, has become nothing but divisive and contentious.  I don’t like the arguing and viciousness that goes on even in personal living, as I’ve outlined in my post ‘Arguing and My Schizophrenic Mind.’  It saddens me greatly that it is practically impossible anymore to  disagree with someone without the discussion turning personal and combative.  I certainly cannot follow a political discussion, even on topics near and dear to me.  I have enough division and contention going on in my schizophrenic mind.  I have no desire to have an external source add to it.

I also refuse to get into the whole discussion on whether to medicate or not.  All I can say is some people with a mental illness diagnosis can do well without anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications.  Others, like myself, are unable to.  I know from personal experience that I can do well for awhile going meds free, but there will be serious problems after awhile if I try to make going med free permanently.  I am not enough of an expert to tell anyone whether or not they should medicate.  That is something that can be answered only a personal level from personal experience.

Going back to the subject of the science behind mental health treatments, I do know that new advances are being made quite often.  As I don’t have a scientific background, I am not qualified to comment on which ones will or will not lead to major breakthroughs in treatment options.  It is a possibility that medications may not be even needed for the treatment of mental illness for anyone if the right breakthroughs are made.  It certainly is exciting times we are in for these advances.

While I at least attempt to keep an open mind, there are simply some things I won’t comment on in this blog.  I don’t feel qualified enough to post on the details of scientific breakthroughs.  I don’t think I’m qualified to state whether or not someone should medicate or not as I am convinced that has to be a personal decision based on individual circumstances.  I won’t comment on any politics of mental health or anything else.  There are plenty of blogs that do that already.  I doubt that my not stating my political thoughts on anything will be missed.

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Why I Blog The Way I Do and Reflections on Blogging, Part One

I recently published my 50th blog entry on this site, alifeofmentalillness.wordpress.com.  It has been a series of interesting, and eye-opening experiences over the last eighteen months.  When I started this, I had no clue it would turn into anything semi-regular.  I guess I didn’t know I’d still be posting after one and a half years.  With that said, the fifty entries I have posted seem to have had a decent reception from the readers.  I hope that the next eighteen months will allow for more posts and more insights into the lives of mentally ill people trying to make a life in ‘a chronically sane world.’

I suppose now would be as good a time as any as to why I post the blog entries I do and use the style of writing I do.  I suppose just as important is why I don’t post the things I don’t. I’ll attempt to go into some details on both.

Why do I blog the way I do?  Many of my blog entries are essentially telling about the aspects, hangups, draw backs, victories, defeats, joys, and pains that I have personally experienced in my life as a mentally ill individual.  This blog doesn’t go too deep into the psychiatric and physiological research and terms simply because I didn’t study psychiatric medicine or physiology in college.  I had a hard enough time with organic chemistry and calculus while I was working through this illness when I was a pre-med major in my second year of college that I dropped calculus and failed organic chemistry.

This alone, at least in an academic sense, would lead some to imply I have no real background in psychiatric medicine or the physiology of the human brain or know about the effects and side effects of psychiatric medications.  For one, I have been an out patient of psychiatric medicine for over fourteen years.  Though I have never been a doctor giving the treatment to psych patients, do not believe for one minute that I don’t know more about psychiatric treatments than those who, in their misguidance, believe that mental illness is not real and thus the pain and anguish associated with the afflicted is not real.  I wish to God I was making up everything I perceived during the course of my mental illness.  To think that those of us with these problems are acting out because we want attention and sympathy is not only sadly naive, it is completely cruel and absolutely inhumane.  If I wanted attention, there are far easier and more effective ways to receive it than fake a malady that most neurotypicals can’t even relate to.

I suppose some would argue because I don’t present scientific facts, figures or use many complex sounding terms that most people can’t relate to, I am making invalid statements about mental illness and my experiences.  To suggest that because someone doesn’t present statistics, that person is not accurate is not in itself true.  First, if numbers are what a person wants, there are plenty of internet sites that provide the cold, hard, faceless facts. This site doesn’t provide just faceless and coldly sterile facts and information.  Anyone with access to any internet search engine can find far more facts, figures, statistics, and descriptions about mental health issues than they could easily sift through.  I am not a scientist by nature or training.  Science wasn’t even my favorite subject in school.  I am not condemning science at all by not providing ‘just the facts.’

If anything, this blog attempts to put at least faces, names, places, and circumstances on the facts and figures that scientists have already discovered.  I suppose I am one who adds the personal element to the mental illness discussion.  Once a face and name is placed on the particular ailments and numbers of an illness, that is when things really start resonating with people.  We hear every day in the news about natural disasters hitting far away places or people losing their jobs when factories close.  Those stories tell the facts, yes, but they often fail at rousing the compassion and actions of others because rarely are names of the afflicted or their life stories shared.  Sadly, we tend to become numb to hearing about these disasters and tragedies of the human existence and come to believe that the hardships and sufferings of other humans do not matter.

Yes, it is true, I as an individual may not have power to do much about floods in Bangladesh, typhoons in Japan, chronic poverty in Haiti, war in Syria and Ukraine, ebola in Liberia, the effects of human made climate change, or the closing of factories and chronic droughts in my own nation.  But I can at very least care about others enough in my small hometown to aide those I come across on a daily basis.  And I certainly can write about the hardships of having a mental illness in such a manner to offer compassion and support to those with mental illness, their loved ones, as well as articulate what is like to have a mental illness to others for those who are unable to articulate for themselves.

Being a voice for mental ill individuals who are unable to articulate for themselves, even if I am unable to speak exactly for every one of us, is the primary purpose of this blog.  I do this to offer support, compassion, and explain to others that the anguishes and pains are extremely real.  I don’t use this blog to be spiteful to others who don’t agree with my ideas. I don’t use this blog to badger and bully others into my line of thinking.  I have no moral grounds to force anyone to believe and think as I do.  All I can do is tell my story, tell the stories of others, and offer aide and support to the hurting and overwhelmed.  Hopefully through the telling of these stories and offering support to other mentally ill persons and their loved ones, compassion for the mentally ill can be achieved.  Even if it is convincing people one at a time.

This ends Part One of this posting.

Happiness, Love, and Mental Illness

Happiness, Love, and Mental Illness are rather difficult topics for me to write about.  Not just because they bring up emotionally difficult concepts, but because it is often tough to explain to other people, neurotypical or not, what these things mean to someone like myself.  While I cannot obviously attempt to speak for everyone with a serious mental illness diagnosis, I simply was never mentally hard wired to have a universally accepted definition of happiness.  My personal definitions of happiness is “a sense of calmness and peace about myself and my surroundings” and “a state where depression, sadness, anxiety, anger, and stress are not my dominant emotions for any set period of time.”  I cannot obviously comment on what happiness means or is interpreted by others, simply because it is impossible for me to get into someone else’s mind and see the world exactly as they see it. I was not made in such a manner as to know what constituted most pleasant emotions such as love, happiness, joy, etc.

Some will no doubt think that my stated definitions of happiness are very odd. Others may even think I am a liar when I state that I literally don’t know what others feel when they are happy. In fact, I usually cannot tell when others are happy. I especially cannot tell when others are happy or pleased with me unless they specifically say so. Even though I have the ability to know how others are likely to act in certain situations, I simply cannot tell what others are feeling. It is impossible for me to read any non verbal queue. The only way I can tell for sure is through their actions. I have a very hard time telling when someone is being deceptive, manipulative, or when a person is being sincere and honest just by their non verbal queues. As I tend to feel paranoid and threatened even on a good day, my usual default mode when dealing with people is the assumption that others are malicious and untrustworthy unless they prove otherwise through their actions and reassurances. The only people I know I am in good standing with no matter what are the handful of people that I’ve been confidants with for more than several years. Growing up with the early stages of schizophrenia that had not made themselves manifest, I never knew with any kind of certainty where I stood with friends, classmates, teachers, adults, and especially my own family unless I was specifically told where I stood. To this day, I just assume I’m out of favor with someone unless I am assured otherwise. To me, that is just as natural as the sky being blue and the sun rising in the east.

As tough as happiness was in writing about, talking about an emotion that is a very tough one for even neurotypicals like love is like climbing Mt. Everest without supplies or a guide. I simply do not understand the neurotypical ideas that are entailed when they state the word ‘love.’ I have no real basis or understanding of the word love. I don’t know how to interpret it from others, I have no built in way to tell if someone loves me (especially if it’s a member of the opposite sex that peeks my interest) and I don’t think I even know how to send out the idea that I love someone. In fact, there really is no hard definition in the English language of the word love. I like how the ancient Greeks had several different words for different types of love. The Greeks had separate words for love between a husband and wife (eros), love for a nation or group of similar people (philios), and unmerrited or Divine love (agape). Having something like that would make things easier for people like me who have difficulties understanding cliches, vague ideas, and things that lack a hard definition.

We live in a civilization that is obsessed with the idea of finding true love and how to preserve such love. Yet there is really no hard and accepted definition of what love truly is. To someone like myself, it is aggravating that there is no hard set definition. It is especially aggravating to me that when I do feel something special for a woman, I have absolutely no sure fire way or instructions as to how to let someone like that know exactly how I feel about her. In the vast majority of cases, what I felt for a girl and what she felt for me where nowhere near close to the same feelings. As a result, I have been on very few dates over the course of my life. With my mental make up being what it is, even though I assume the worst about other people I really don’t know well, the rejection I get from others is still painful deal with. I simply am unable to read non verbal queues. The verbalized ones I do receive, I often interpret in my mind as very likely being far worse then what the person talking with me ever intended. Thus the idea of even casual dating, let alone marriage, scares me so much I won’t even attempt it anymore. It is not within my definition of love or friendship to be in any kind of relationship or partnership where there is any real strife.

People think I’m lying when I say I’ve had friendships that have lasted for around 20 years where I have not even had a real argument with the friend. Others may argue that this a sterile friendship that lacks any substance and character. That is far from the truth. The best friend I currently have, who is by the way a woman I have known since my junior high years, we probably have a better, more fulfilling friendship than most friendships or even marriages could imagine as possible. The only serviceable definition of love I know of in the English language comes from St. Paul’s second letter to the early church in Corinth (2 Corinthians, Chapter 13 I think). Even that wasn’t originally written in English (it was originally ancient Greek) and it was written almost two thousand years ago.

In closing I have much chaos in my mind due to my mental illness. That is why I crave stability and absolutes in my outer life and when dealing with others. Yet, I have rarely found any lasting stability in my relations with other humans. I have certainly never found any stability and absolutes when trying, and failing miserably, when trying to secure the affections of a woman I have feelings for. I have failed so miserably in looking for stability and reason in my dealings with other humans that I have essentially accepted this as a futile and pointless task. And that continues to cause me a great deal of stress, sadness, anger, and strife to this day. As I stated earlier, having such feelings dominate my mental outlook is my standard mode of operation because of my mental illness. By my own definition, I am typically not sensing what I understand to be happiness and certainly I don’t know what it is to feel loved.

Thoughts on the Death of a Close Friend

I’m going off my usual mental illness topics for this post.  Something like what I’m currently writing has been weighing on me for quite some time.  Yet it finally crystalized into actual thoughts within the last twenty four hours before this writing with the death of one of my best friends.  This man died in his early 80s and was a retired Lutheran minister.  Pastor Vern, as this man was known to everyone living in my apartment complex, was probably the wisest, wittiest, well read, and compassionate individual I met in my entire life. I knew him for eight years but I don’t believe I ever heard him say anything derogative or hurtful about anyone.  I know I can’t go even eight days without at least thinking something hurtful directed at others, but hopefully most of this is due to the aspects of my illness.

Being a career Lutheran minister, Pastor Vern no doubt had his views on religion and God.   Yet he was not as caught up in rituals, creeds, and beliefs when talking with me as he was on the basic principles of Christianity and other religious beliefs.  Those core beliefs, the ones he lived by everyday were simply 1) Love God, 2) Care About Others, and 3) Respect Yourself.  I suppose if one were to substitute or supplement  the world ‘God’ with nature or the earth, even the most convinced atheists would be hard pressed to deny that loving nature, caring about others, and respecting yourself are good principles to attempt to live by.

Pastor Vern, being one with a wide array of interests and knowledge, was a perfect friend for someone like myself.  He and I could easily talk about history, classical literature, philosophy, among numerous other topics for quite a long time.  We would usually be sitting outside, him smoking his pipe, and just discuss whatever happened to come up regardless of whether it had any logical order or direction or not.  Some of our neighbors who listened to our conversations no doubt thought us a little odd for rarely discussing such mundane things as weather, current events, or gossiping about others.  For myself and Pastor Vern, hardly any topic was not subject matter to be discussed.  We had an unspoken agreement that no matter how much we disagreed on any one topic, we would never become angry or speak harshly to each other.  I suppose this falls under the care about others and respect yourself principles.

He and I have both studied the basic teachings and principles of most religions with significant followings.  We both came to the conclusion that in spite of the differing rituals, social practices and customs, sets of creeds and beliefs, etc. that one thing they all believed were the ideas that a person would be better off in their own lives and dealings with others if the basics of ‘Loving God (or your creator/giver of life/etc.)’, ‘Caring About Other People and Living Things’, and ‘Respecting Yourself’ were principles that a person attempted to live by.

Yes, these are simple principles to the point that any six year old child can grasp these are important.  Sadly, most of us as adults severely complicate these and often don’t live by these ideas at all.  How much less strife and division would we have in our work places and places of business if managers, workers, and customers alike lived by even the caring about others and respecting ourselves?  How much less war, famine, disease, poverty would we have if even individuals, let alone the governments of the world, operated with these guides?  How much less needless destruction of our most valuable forests, farmlands, waters and wasting of finite natural resources would we have if we lived by even the ‘Love God/Nature/Earth’ idea?  How much less conflict and needless grief would we have in our personal lives if we cared about others and respected ourselves more?

I apologize for the mini rant in the previous paragraph.  I wrote that to try to apply to our own lives the principles that my recently deceased friend Pastor Vern lived by every day.  These are principles I attempt to live by though often inconsistently.  In closing I’m glad to have had a friend like Pastor Vern for the eight years I knew him.  I wish that everyone could attempt to live by such principles, or at least become acquainted with those who do.