2014 in review

I don’t normally post information about my views to alifeofmentalillness.wordpress.com.  With this being the end of my first full year of posting about mental illness and mental health issues, I felt it appropriate to give appreciation to everyone who visited during the last twelve months.  It was a good year.  I hope we can make 2015 even better.  Thanks.  Zach

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

Reflection upon 2014 and Looking Ahead to 2015

10003113_10152340093435460_650990473_n

The year 2014 will be drawing to a close in a few short days.  I always enjoyed the rebirth of New Year’s as a holiday as much as I enjoyed the joys of Christmas and the pride of July 4th.  It is, for me, a time of reflection on the year that was and looking ahead to the year that will be.  It is all appropriate to reflect on the past year.

In 2014, I managed to lose almost 60 pounds and get some other issues in my life in order.  Yes, the weight loss has slowed since late October.  But many people gain weight during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas seasons.  I’m fortunate that I was able to hold weight wise and mentally even during these stressful and unorganized times.

I had a real good Christmas season.  I didn’t experience as much stress, anxiety, and irritation between Thanksgiving and Christmas as in past years.  Yes I did have one bad episode but that was resolved within one day.  But I got to see an old friend I hadn’t seen in over 15 years, I got some cool stuff for Christmas, and was able to spend several days with friends and family.  How can I ask for more?  It was an ideal holiday season for someone with a mental illness.  We can all use less anxiety and stress in our lives.  We who deal with mental illness are no exception.

I’m glad I lost those 60 pounds in 2014.  My goal, one of them anyway, is to lose another 60 pounds at minimum.  I still have a long way to go before I am at the weight I was in high school.  For far too long I accepted the nonsense that gaining weight while taking anti psychotic drugs was inevitable.  Yes, that can be one of the more prominent side effects of being treated for mental illness problems.  At the same time, many of the newer anti psychotic drugs don’t promote weight gain as much as many of the older generation of medications.  Yes, they are expensive.  Without being on Medicaid and Medicare, my anti psych drugs would cost $1,300 per month.  Just because I’m on government assistance doesn’t mean I’m not aware of what these meds would cost.  While I curse the fact I can’t support myself through my own labor (at least not yet), I am still grateful that such programs as well as private services exist to aid those of us who are, as of this writing in late 2014, still struggling to support ourselves.

We as people have made strides in 2014.  We landed a space probe on a comet among other numerous achievements.  Who knows what the next few decades, let alone the next few years, will bring us as far as achievements and breakthroughs that will make living easier and more productive.  For myself, I never imagined in mid 2012 when I registered a blog through wordpress.com, I would be doing this blog semi regular.  As of today, I’ve had 4,200 plus visits to my blog from at least 60 different nations on every inhabited continent in the world.  Yes, there are blogs that have that many visits on even bad days.  But, thewritngoflife.wordpress.com has evidently struck some people as something worth reading and leaving positive comments on.  Fortunately I haven’t had problems with internet trolls yet.  I’m sure I’ll get a few before long.  But a wise blogger doesn’t feed trolls or anyone else looking to irritate others and start problems.  While it is irritating for me to see people act dumb and look for arguments, even with a mental illness I am aware that such people do not deserve to have their comments responded to.

I have enjoyed 2014.  I got more healthy, lost quite a bit of weight, saw a few old friend I hadn’t seen in years, visited the Black Hills of South Dakota, found out I’m going to be a groomsman in a college friends wedding in summer of 2015, got to visit my out of state niece and three nephews a few times, stayed out of a mental health hospital (I can’t claim that for 2013), and got to see this little ol’ blog of mine reach some people.  How can I call a year like this a waste?  I can’t.  Yes I said good bye to an old friend, found out a second friend of mine in my apartment complex died on Christmas day itself, and saw my parents experience some of the ravages of old age.  Fortunately I had only two major psych breakdowns (I’m usually due for one in either August or September every year because I have a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia).  As far as living years with a mental illness goes, this year may actually go down as one of my best yet.

As far as goals for 2015, I desire to lose at least another 60 pounds.  While I did fail at one of my goals for 2014 in that I didn’t find a part time job, I feel the year was a success overall.

No job is better than an ill suited job for your mental health (madness and the need for unproductivity, too)

This is a post from a blog titled beyondmeds.com. I take no credit for these writings. I do agree that those of us with mental illness problems and issues often pressure ourselves into taking paid employment at the expense of taking time to heal ourselves. Others are often pressured by well-meaning friends, family, caseworkers, etc. into taking work that doesn’t mesh with their talents and attributes. I know I have had problems with minimum wage jobs in the past that didn’t mesh with my natural abilities, and now I don’t have the confidence to try any kind of work. Just as the title states, ‘No job is better than an ill suited job for your mental health.’ So true…..

Everything Matters: Beyond Meds

video_ocean_sea_of_madness_speedpaint_by_nitelyhallow-d4lrqneThis article today got me thinking about an older post from a few years ago that I’ll once again share below the excerpt. This fact that bad and soul-killing jobs are difficult on us in profound ways has many implications in terms of beginning to think about how society needs to be reordered for the well-being of all humanity.

A bad job is harder on your mental health than unemployment

Psychosocial job quality involves the degree to which jobs promote control, autonomy, challenge, variety and task discretion. It effects the extent to which work enhances or diminishes our psychological well-being.

There’s a clear link between being engaged in “good work” and mental health. An important contribution to our understanding of this link has come from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey in Australia. It brings together a robust set of data that can be easily compared…

View original post 1,414 more words

Good Times and Bad Times With Schizophrenia

238943_v1I have found when I talk to chronically normal people about what life with a mental illness is like, they are often surprised that it mental illness isn’t always the same all the time.  They seem to be shocked I have good days, let alone times when I laugh out of happiness.  I imagine that even informed normals just think that someone with mental illness problems has nothing but problems.  Some just think that because I deal with schizophrenia that I have delusions, paranoia, agitation, and depression all the time.  Not so.  The Hollywood images of the mentally ill being in a hospital being zombie like or loudly ranting isn’t entirely true.  Just because there are those with mental illness who sometimes zone out or act ‘stark raving mad’, that doesn’t mean that even those are like that all the time.  No it isn’t all doom and gloom anymore than it is all wine and roses.  We have our good days and bad days just like even the most chronically normal individuals.

It may be a jaw dropping shock to some, I do have good days even with a mental illness.  I do experience moments of what I understand to be happiness.  I have times where I am not depressed.  I have times when I am not delusional or paranoid.  In fact, most of the time I am not delusional or excessively paranoid.  When I do have my problems, sometimes it’s only with depression.  Sometimes it’s only with excessive agitation or annoyance.  There are some times I deal with depression and paranoia at the same time.  I am occasionally depressed and delusional when I do feel that living a life with a mental illness is hopeless and better treatments or, gasp, an actual cure for mental illness will not be coming.  Fortunately it is only rare that I deal with agitation, paranoia, and delusions all at the same time.  That usually only happens only a handful of times per year, with the worst instances coming in late summers.  It is those very rare times that cause me, and my friends and family, the most grief.

Delusions that can’t be shaken for a while, crippling depression, being easily agitated, and excessive paranoia are the worst problems I have as a man with schizophrenia.  The hallucinations are taken care of as is the impulsive behavior.  Even when I am at my worst, my bark is far worse than my bite.  But even then, I can usually be talked down out of it within a couple hours.  It can be a lively conversation for those couple hours, and that’s putting it politely.  Fortunately I haven’t hurt myself, anyone else, or gotten myself hurt by anyone else during those times.  Even with the four major symptoms of my schizophrenia, I usually experience only one or two at a time.  That is most of the flare ups I have.  The instances where I have three symptoms at once are rare.

College, The World of Work, and The New Reality

Featured Image -- 2455

I’m taking a detour from my usual posts about mental illness and related issues. Yet this is still a serious topic I’m writing about. It’s about college, the world of work, and the new career and economic realities of life in the early 21st century. Even though I’ve been out of college and in the dreaded ‘real world’ for the last ten years, I still have yet to find the proverbial ‘well paying, well respected’ job that we were told that a college degree would lead to. I know that we’re living in tough economic times and that we’re transitioning to a service based economy from a manufacturing one. But I can’t help but feel like I was sold a bill of goods. It’s as if the old rules of go to college, get a good job, save your money for retirement, and live the American Dream of a house, a spouse, 2.3 kids, etc. no longer apply.

I am convinced we, as Americans, been living the high life for too long. Our expectations are out of whack. There very likely is a limit to how much of ‘the good life’ that we can expect before our standing of living goes down. And I think that we in America have hit it. I suppose this simply couldn’t last forever.

I wonder if those who are now entering college are aware of what’s going on in the world. Lord knows that I, and most of my classmates, had no clue as to what was coming. I still would have gone to college. But I wouldn’t have deluded myself into thinking that I was going straight from college to the good life. I suppose it’s what they call ‘paying your dues.’

Anyway, the rules have changed. College by itself will no longer guarentee you much. So my advise anyone who wants to go to college straight out of high school is this: Don’t go in with your eyes closed. Know that college alone will not guarantee you the easy life and happiness. Buyer beware. If you are still determined to go to college, at least study something that can specifically transfer over in a career. I’m talking about majors in any field of engineering, computer informations systems, accounting, teacher education, computer science, anything in the medical fields, and law. I would especially highly recommend trades like plumbing, welding, electrician, auto mechanics, information technology, anything to do with transportation, mining/extraction, renewable energy, and construction. It seemed that many teachers I knew ran down the skilled trades until they needed their cars fixed or carpentry work done on their houses. Most people I know with liberal arts degrees like english, history, etc. are either working low paying jobs, are becoming college instructors, or went on to law school or business school. Now, I love english and history as much as anyone I’ve ever met. I also didn’t want to teach in a traditional classroom setting. So I read as many history, classic literature, and philosophy books as I could on my own time during my five years in college. The school library was my second home. I may not have had much of a social life but with mental health issues, I didn’t have much of a social life anyway.

I’ve been out in the world outside of school for ten years now. I made some mistakes in the course of my college years. Had I the ability to do over again, I’d have probably studied Computer Science or Information Technology in addition to my business training. I use computers all the time just in my blogging and researching. I have a basic business background, but I don’t have anything specific like accounting. I still would have read a great deal of history, classic literature, and philosophy on my own. I am, however, grateful I never majored in such subjects. My basic business background taught me how to manage my personal finances, which is not required learning in American high schools. When I was questioned ‘why business’ after my foray into Pre-Med failed, I answered something like ‘I don’t have any knowledge of how businesses, banks, money, investments, sales, and economics work. I can learn this and perhaps make myself employable once I get a bachelor’s.’ While I haven’t landed the high paying job, I definitely learned how to budget and get as much out of money as I can. These skills made adapting to life on disability insurance and part time work much easier.

The ideas of how an individual has to budget all their expenses, know where their limited money is going, how compounding interest on credit cards and bank loans work, etc. are not exactly mysteries of the universe. But I had to study business in college to learn these things that, in a truly good education system, would have been addressed to kids in high school and even middle school. The level of financial knowledge in my country is truly sad. This lack of knowledge is why we’re having record numbers of people and businesses going bankrupt. Many marriages are strained and fail because of poor money management. Strained families cause stress and anxiety on everyone involved, especially children. It is why most city, state, and federal governments have such atrocious amounts of debt. Most of this could have been avoided had we been taught how money really works. I would liken this lack of instruction of the primary driver of our modern civilization to an ancient farming society not teaching their kids how to plant, raise, and harvest crops or how to care for livestock.

Many devoutly religious people may counter with the ‘love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’ from the Bible and other religious teachings. This has nothing to do with lust for money and power. Teaching money management to kids would tell them how the basic tool of survival in our post industrial age society, money, really works and give them a healthy respect for it. Surely it isn’t so bad to teach kids something in middle and high school that would truly benefit them in their adult lives? Any school that doesn’t teach it’s kids basic survival skills in their given society nor gives those kids the ability to learn on their own after the formal education is done, in short, isn’t justifying it’s own existence. I was fortunate to have studied business in college for my own sake. And I had to learn it in college because it wasn’t taught in a safer environment like a local high school or middle school. I am so grateful I didn’t have to learn about it on the mean streets or the ‘school of hard knocks.’

Seeing Old Friends

10294454_4277668317238_353607190635132529_n

I haven’t written for two weeks because I spent almost a week in my childhood hometown. I spent that time visiting old friends from my high school years.  One of these friends in particular, the best friend I have ever had, I hadn’t seen since we were eighteen.  We kept in contact through Facebook and emails, but none of that is the same as seeing a friend in person.  I was pleasantly surprised that she and I were able to pick up as if it was only a few days since we last talked, let alone sixteen years.  I was actually quite speechless when we first met last week simply from being overjoyed at seeing this friend who stuck by me through the highs and lows of mental illness.  Years ago in high school, when I was having my first problems with crippling depression and bouts of anger, she was the first one to suggest that what I was going through was not normal teenage angst.  She observed this before even I did.  Good friends like this need to be held onto.  It’s not like good friendships can be found every day.

This visit with old friends reminded me of how valuable having some people who will support me, and I support them, truly is.  In my current life, I don’t always have a healthy social life.  Much of this is due to the paranoia aspect of my mental illness that makes it tough for me to tell whom is trustworthy.  Since my default mode is to assume I cannot trust someone I just met until I can tell otherwise, this makes starting new friendships and social contacts pretty tough.  Social safety nets are not only essential for any kind of stability for those with mental illness, but they make life much more enjoyable.  They are the pleasant memories of when things are going well that can make the difference in getting through tough times that come and go for all people, mental illness or no.  To paraphrase the late Robin Williams from ‘Dead Poets Society’ (one of my favorite all time movies), ‘Now medicine, business, engineering, science are all good endeavors that are necessary to sustain life.  But it is things like art, poetry, beauty, love, friendship that are reasons we stay alive.’