Memorial Day Weekend At Home Alone

Memorial Day will be next Monday here in America.  For some it means having cookouts and the unofficial start of the summer season.  Others may go to Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery or the Veterans’ Association to remember fallen loved ones and brothers in arms.  When I was in high school I used to go to the local cemetery for the program the local American Legion post conducted.  I friend of mine would play Taps at the end of the ceremony on his trumpet.  When I worked for the courthouse I assisted with decorating the courthouse and other county government properties.  This year I’ll probably just stay home and watch a couple war movies on Netflix.  My back has been hurting pretty bad the last two days so I’m not very mobile.  I’ve been constantly icing it and it seems to help some.  Hopefully my back will clear up after a couple days of rest and ice.

I rescheduled a psych doctor appointment so I could spend a couple days out of town.  I see my doctor again at the end of June.  Last time I saw him we were talking about changing a second medication to see if I could get some kind of normal again.  I had been having problems with more frequent flare ups and being more irritable than usual.  But after changing just one medication (and this was a med my DNA tests said would be effective for me) I think I’m doing well enough I don’t have to make a second change.  I haven’t had any bad flare ups in two months.  I’m more stable now.  I’m not as irritable.  I don’t even need the anti anxiety meds much anymore.  The only real complaint I have is I sleep a little more now.  But my sleep patterns usually have me sleeping too much or too little with nothing in between.

I’m going to be spending the weekend alone and probably mostly at my apartment unless my lower back makes a fast recovery and I become mobile again.  But I have enough food and supplies to last several days if the back doesn’t recover quickly.  I’m not too worried about my mental health now.  And I haven’t been able to say that for a long time.

 

 

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Taking A Short Vacation

At the beginning of this week I decided to take two days out of town and retreat to my family’s acreage in the country.  It’s about forty acres with a stream fed fishing pond on it.  I caught a small bass (I do catch and release), went for a couple walks around the acreage, did some star gazing (I have never seen Mars so big and bright), and took care of a couple barn cats my parents keep out there.  I spent a lot of time outdoors and got a little sun on my shoulders.  I had forgotten that my medications make me more prone to easy sun burns.  I’m glad I wasn’t outside much longer.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous the two days I was out of town.  It has been a cooler and wetter spring than usual.  But we had a wetter than normal winter and a hotter than usual autumn.  I was out at the acreage by myself for two days with no internet.  I found out I like being around people more than I thought.  I just don’t like being around them for long periods of time.  It’s probably why I do well in an apartment complex while living alone.  Most people at my complex are understanding about my mental illness as we have many people here with disabilities.  Being in the country made me realize just how much goes on even in my small town.  The only people I saw in my two days in the country were a couple farmers on the back gravel roads.  I had forgotten how quiet the country really is.

Our acreage, in addition to the fishing pond, has a main cabin, a small bunk house, a metal storage barn, and a windmill.  It’s not as rustic as it sounds as my father put a satellite tv receiver, a ham radio tower, and a solar panel to run a heater on the main cabin.  The cabin is also wired so we could run it off a gas generator in case the power ever went out.  We’re even entertaining the idea of putting up a second solar panel to back up even the generator.  My family doesn’t believe in leaving things to chance.  My mother and I helped him build that cabin several years ago.  The acreage is one of my father’s retirement projects.  I’ve helped him build two cabins, a fishing dock, a windmill, make fences, and clear out tree branches from our small apple orchard.  I found out I’m pretty decent with an electric screw driver and saw.  I’m glad I got those chances to work with wood and basic construction.  It’s therapeutic and you have something to look out when you’re done and can say ‘we did this.’  They also have a garden there but they don’t grow much besides tomatoes.  It’s a late summer tradition for our family once the tomatoes are ripe that we’ll eat bacon and tomato sandwiches with sweet corn for supper probably three nights a week.  You can always tell when it’s August at our house and you smell bacon frying almost every night.

It was a good time to be out of town for a couple days.  The weather is finally starting to warm up and the sun is shining again.  It was a good way to start my summer.

My Thoughts On Working Life

 

It’s now been four years since I last held a regular job.  Even though I don’t need the money from a job as I am debt free, I do miss the daily structure that having a job gave.  I do not miss dealing with office politics.  It seemed that nothing I ever did at a job was good enough for bosses or coworkers.  I would ask questions and I’d get in trouble.  I wouldn’t ask questions and I’d get in trouble.  I would make mistakes because no one explained procedures and I’d get in trouble.  I dealt with coworkers who were in a foul mood most of the time because they hated their jobs.  I never had any kind of real training and then I’d get into trouble because I was doing things wrong.  I was fired from my first job at age seventeen because I wasn’t figuring things out fast enough.  I was sexually harassed by female and male coworkers. Surprise, even men can get sexually harassed.  I even had a coworker threaten to kill me once.  I walked off the job and quit the next day over that.  I didn’t report it because I was too afraid and it’s my experience that no one would take my problems seriously. Eventually I decided I had enough of the work world in general and just left my last job.  I haven’t looked back.  I would have loved to had the structure and something to do everyday.  But the workplace is just absolutely toxic and unhealthy anymore.  I don’t see how you normals can encourage this nonsense.

Of course my critics think I’m just weak for not being able to deal with toxic work environments.  Some probably think me stupid for not being able to make sense of workplace politics.  I can’t make sense of the work world.  It makes no sense to me why you normals would rather look good but not be productive and not take chances to go for greatness.  Why do you complain about your bosses and coworkers?  Why do you complain about your customers?  I can’t make sense of your workplace, at least not the American workplace.  Surely it couldn’t have always been this toxic and counter productive.  As far as I’m concerned let the robots and automation take most of the jobs.  Most people don’t do their jobs because they love what they do or are even good at it.  Most people work their jobs just for the money.  I think in time people would be happier if they didn’t have to deal with toxic work environments and were at work because they wanted to be not because they had to be.  But with automation set to come in a large way, people may not have to work full time to have a decent life.  If automation makes food and products cheaply, then many people could get by on a low wage job or even a disability pension.

I used to work in customer service.  It seems to be the most abundant set of jobs as fewer people are needed for agriculture and manufacturing in the early 21st century.  And I never could figure out why people are verbally abusive to store clerks and fast food workers.  Most of these workers that get the abuse are front line workers making barely over minimum wage.  I don’t mean this to sound like an insult but if we expected great deals from these front line workers, then we would be paying them more than minimum wage.  And I saw in article last week that Wendy’s, one of the largest fast food chains here in America, is planning on having self ordering kiosks at all of their restaurants by the end of 2016. So you normals are yelling at people whose work can be done by machines now.  Someday your job could be too.

I yelled at a store clerk last summer when I was going through a mini psychotic breakdown.  It was the only time in my life I was mean with a store clerk.  I felt so rotten about it I immediately apologized and I voluntarily stayed out of that store for a month.  I felt so ashamed of myself for yelling at this college aged clerk and he did’t even do anything wrong.  I feel embarrassed writing about it almost a year later.  I used to get verbally abused by customers and coworkers all the time when I worked retail and restaurants.  And I promised myself I would never do that to another person.  It felt terrible being on the receiving end of the abuse and I didn’t feel powerful for being the abuser that one time.  So I ask, why do you normals feel it’s your God given right to be abusive to those in low positions?  We outlawed slavery and serfdom generations ago.  Just because you are in a position of power does not give you the right to be abusive.

I am thankful everyday that I have my disability pension to fall back on.  It wasn’t my first choice when I was growing up. I was a top student as a child and I wanted to be a research scientist since I was five years old.  I knew I wanted to go to college by the time I was in second grade.  I was in a gifted and talented program where I took the college board exams as a thirteen year old.  I was a member of National Honor Society.  I went to college initially as a Pre Med major.  After a year and a half of college, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and I could no longer do the tough science and math classes. I continued to go to college and work after I was diagnosed because I really wanted to be a good productive member of society.  But my mental illness destroyed my ability to process stress, read people, and navigate work place politics.  I wouldn’t be so negative about the work place if I could process stress better and read people. I probably could have done some kind of trades work but I am not very good with my hands.  All my talents were in the mental realms. But I’ve had enough bad experiences with the kinds of work I can do with a mental illness that I don’t even want to go back to work ever again.  With more and more lower and even medium level jobs being primed to get taken over by machines and automation within the next several years, working may not even be an option for me and many other people.

I never could understand the mentality that you are only valued for what you do, especially what you do for money.  Most farm work is done with machines now.  Many manufacturing jobs are done by machines with a handful of people in support roles.  Automation is coming to telemarketing, fast food, retail, banking, stock brokering, etc.  We have computers that can beat grandmasters at chess, beat any human at trivia games, store and recall more information than any organic brain could possibly. We are developing automobiles and trucks that can drive themselves, so there goes truck drivers.  Airplanes essentially fly themselves anymore with human pilots there mainly to take over in case of emergencies. We have machines that we send to other planets and explore essentially on their own.  Most of the physical and clerical work a human can do can already be exceeded by machines.  Even the military is using robots and drones, so there’s less need for human soldiers in many developed countries.  Unless you’re in a career that involves a great deal of independent thought, personal touch, and creativity, your job very likely is at risk of being automated.  Then what of that identity you’ve built around your job for most your adult life?

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In closing we as humans are more than what we do for money.  I was always more than my remedial job or small bank account.  We are not the cars we drive, the houses we live in, or the clothing we wear.  With machines being primed to do many jobs better than humans and make high quality products for quite cheap, we humans are going to have to find different measures of distinction.  And I probably would have never gotten to this level of acceptance had I never developed a mental illness.  Many people will be blind sided by the levels of change that are going to hit the workplace and society in general.  It will be interesting and scary at the same time for the next fifteen to twenty years.

Things I DO NOT Believe In

 

This post is going to be off the beaten path of a life of mental illness.  This is meant to be both kind of fun and as a way to get to know your mentally ill corespondent a little better.  So here is a list of things that I don’t believe in.

 

Santa Claus

The Easter Bunny

The Tooth Fairy

Divine Intervention

Love at First Sight

Love is Forever

The Cops Are My Friends

The Cops Are Jack Booted Thugs

Nostalgia for the Past

UFOs

Faith Healers

Most Homeopathic Medicine

Vaccinations Cause Autism

Network Marketing Companies

The Power of Positive Thinking

The World Is A Terrible Place

We Live In Excessively Violent Times

Kids Today are Lazy and Worthless

Politicians Were Honest and Noble in the Past

Adults Know What’s Really Going On

Old People Are Always A Source of Wisdom

Young People Are Idiots

Money Back Guarentees

Shape Shifting Aliens

The Illuminati

Cryptic Messages On The Dollar Bill

Elvis Never Did Drugs

Music Died With John Lennon

Hip Hop Died With Tupac and Biggie

I Would Be Happier If I Was A Millionaire

The Novels of Dan Brown

Rock Music Promotes Devil Worship

Hip Hop Promotes Violence

Country Music Promotes Alcoholism

Jerry Springer Isn’t Staged

Reality TV is Really Real

Cable News Reports All The News That’s Worth Reporting

Property Values Always Go Up

Anything On Late Night Infomercials

Pick Up Artists

TV Evangelists

You Too Can Make Money On Youtube

Being A Writer Is Glamorous

Celebrity Worship

The Past Was A Golden Age That Was Friendlier

The Future Is Going To Be Terrible

People Are Less Moral Now Than In The Past

Anything Said By Alex Jones

The Lunar Lander Was A Hoax

The Two Party System Is The Only Way To Go

The War on Drugs

Politics Is More Important Than Science and Engineering

The World Is Falling Apart

Being A Kid Is Great

Being An Adult Sucks

Journalists Always Tell The Truth

Teachers Are Always Noble

Worrying Makes Things Better

Complaining Makes Things Better

Being A Pessimist Makes You Right

Being An Optimist Makes You Stupid

Most Talk Radio

Guru Worship

Hollywood Remakes

Everybody Always Gets What They Deserve

Cheaters Never Prosper

Honesty Is A Sucker’s Bet

Jocks Are Better Than Nerds

Video Games and Comic Books Are Just For Kids

Computer Hackers Are Fat Geeks Living In Mom’s Basement

The End Times Are Upon Us

Trusting Anything Completely

Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better

 

This isn’t a complete list of my entire philosophy on life but it is a start.  After making this list I realized that, in spite having a serious mental illness, I’m not as crazy as I thought.

A Letter To My 18 Year Old Self

A little something I wrote this time last year about my thoughts on graduation and things I wish I knew at age 18.

A Life Of Mental Illness

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High school graduation season is in full swing in my home state.  Some times it’s tough to believe I’ve been out of high school for sixteen years.  So much has happened since I became an adult.  What follows is what I would tell myself if I had a time traveling DeLorean or funky booth like Dr. Who.

Dear Zach

You have just finished high school and your adult life now lays ahead of you shooting off into the unseen distance like the open highway in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road.”  You didn’t take any time to appreciate the fact you graduated from high school, looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of college instead.  You should have appreciated your time being somewhat of an outsider in your high school.  First because the people that struggle socially in high school often are the ones who adapt to the adult world better…

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Socializing and Decreased Hallucinations

Now that I have my medication situation under control I’ve been easing back into more of a normal type of life.  At least it’s as normal as a life of mental illness is going to get.  One of the aspects of my life that is starting to resemble normal is my social life.  Just last week I spent two hours outdoors chatting with two of my neighbors. Three days ago I chatted with a third neighbor for over an hour. Today I chatted one on one with another neighbor for almost two hours.  Those are the three longest conversations I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family in months.  I still make a point of calling my parents at least twice a week.  It’s not just Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day I talk to my parents.  I still go to counseling twice a month with the same counselor I’ve had for the last year and a half.  We have a pretty good thing going.  I also have a good deal going with my psych doctor.  I do kind of worry because both of these men are getting close to retirement age.  So I’ll be in the market for new therapists and doctors within a few years.  I’m so glad the subject of DNA testing came up with my psych doctor.  The medication I changed to was one my DNA tests said would work really well for me.  So the DNA testing has already paid off.  We might make another change within a few weeks.  But things seem to be working well enough now we might not even need to make a second change.

I’m also noticing I can now go entire days without feeling irritable.  I don’t even really get irritable while driving.  Since I usually drive a little slower than speed limit, especially in town, I usually get passed and sometimes cut off.  But neither really bothers me that much anymore.  And I’m beginning to drive more again.  For several months I drove only when I had to run errands or to visit my family.  I rarely made spontaneous trips.  And being in an auto accident several months ago didn’t help any.  Even though I wasn’t at fault in that accident I lost some confidence in my driving ability.  It’s now coming back.  I haven’t set out on a long road trip yet but I probably will this summer.  I try to take at least one several hour road trip every summer.

I’m also having fewer auditory hallucinations.  For me, my hallucinations were almost always voices. Occasionally I hear foot steps and doors closing that no one else does, which can be quite creepy. Voices and foot steps are the two biggest hallucinations I have.  If one were to watch me closely when I’m alone, you could see my lips move and I would be speaking under my breath. That’s how the hallucinations make themselves manifest. It no doubt looks very odd but hopefully it’s not as painfully obvious as some schizophrenic hallucinations.  I can have entire conversations with the voices and not even speak loud enough to be heard.  But since most of the voices are quite nasty and critical it’s not like the conversations are enriching or enjoyable.  But I’m getting to where I now have much more conversation with real flesh and blood people than just isolating and arguing with my hallucinations.

Getting To Some Kind Of Normalcy

After six weeks of being on a different medication I am now adapting to the changes brought about.  I usually don’t need as much sleep so I now usually wake up earlier.  I have found myself slightly more sensitive to caffeine.  So I usually shut off the coffee and black tea after four p.m. unless I want to be up most of the night.  I have been spending more time outdoors and restarted the exercise routine a few days ago.  I am still kind of rusty but I hadn’t been doing much exercise for three weeks because of the weather and medication changes.

I am also regaining some of my lost emotions. I have felt a little loneliness over the last few weeks.  For months I have been content to spend the vast bulk of my days in isolation with as little interaction as possible.  I never did well at socializing, especially growing up in a small farming village where most people didn’t share my type of interests.  But I am now wanting to socialize again.  I find myself leaving my apartment at least a few times a day.  Previously I used to leave my apartment only once or twice a day if at all.  I have had days I didn’t leave my apartment, especially in the winter. I also feel a little more happiness.  Used to be the only real feelings I had for a couple years were anger and quiet contentment.  I didn’t relax and feel happiness because I didn’t know how.  But the ability to feel happiness is beginning to come back.   I am now able to feel a little anger and irritation without fear of going psychotic.  I haven’t had a psychotic break since I changed my medication.  I switched back to an old medication I had been on for several years.  The DNA tests I took shown that this medication worked really well for me.  So it confirmed something I already suspected.  I’ll see my psych doctor again at the end of the month and we’ll look into changing a second medication then.  I knew this would be a long process when we started.  But it’s certainly better than having psychotic breakdowns every six weeks.

I admit my physical health and exercise has taken a lower priority since I started this medication change.  I have gained a few pounds in the last few weeks. My endurance has really dropped off. It’ll probably take several more exercise sessions before it really starts coming back. But I’m getting back into exercise again, especially since the weather is warming up.