I have been having problems with depression, anxiety, delusional thoughts, and excessive anger since I was seventeen. I was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in October 2000. I’ve been treated for these mental health problems for fifteen years. In fact, today as I write this is probably the anniversary of when I was diagnosed. I’m not exactly sure as those hectic weeks leading up to my diagnosis are a blur. I do remember that I was having mini psychotic breaks at least twice a week when I was call home and just yell at my family members for no real reason. Now, I had a good family as a child. While I had a good family I struggled socially. I didn’t have many friends or confidants, likely because I was eccentric and one of these really smart kids who was too stubborn to hide the fact I was smart. That didn’t win many favor points with my school mates. But, the fact I did have a good family who held me accountable was probably one of the reasons I was able to do well in spite of my mental illness.
I grew up in a very small farming community of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska. It was one of those places that life changed with the seasons more than anything. Social activities centered around farming, school activities, and church groups. It was one of those places where everyone knew at least one thing about everyone. It was also one of those places that was remote enough that we thought nothing of getting in the car and driving an hour and a half to the nearest Wal-Mart. Lack of access to proper mental health care is one of the reasons I left my hometown. Yet I’m only an hour and a half drive from my family, so not terribly far in case of crisis. But also far enough I’m able to have my own space and my own life. I currently live in a small college town of less than 50,000 people. So it’s still one of those places were the pace of life changes with the seasons.
After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I still wouldn’t withdraw from college until the next spring. By then the mental health problems were bad enough I left my dorm room only to go to classes and twice a day to go to the dining hall. Had no social life and I was in danger of flunking out of school entirely. So I left college and took several weeks to regroup. I went back to college in the fall of 2001 with a changed major and better treatment for my mental illness. I originally started as a pre-med student before switching over to business management. I graduated in May 2004. Even though I never worked a job requiring my degree, I am glad I had those classes because they taught me budgeting and how economics works. I probably would have found a job requiring a degree had I left the farm belt of Nebraska. But with my inconvenient mental illness flare ups I would not have held such a job long enough to support myself. I ultimately qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance in late 2008. I have worked since, primarily as a part time evening janitor and maintenance man at the county courthouse. Held that job for four years.
I haven’t held a “real job” besides doing temporary work here and there for three years. But I have come to the realization that my self worth as a human is not in the job I work. Many people forget this, especially men like myself who tend to be obsessive about our pursuits. Even though I’m living on social security disability money I am also debt free. Not making payments any more is a good feeling that takes away a good deal of my previous stress and anxiety. I’ve also been blogging about mental illness issues for two and a half years. Feel free to look over some of my previous posts. It’s been a long, hard, and strange trip. But one that I have survived and learned a great deal from. Who knows what the next fifteen years will bring. It’ll be 2030 by then and I’ll be fifty years old.