Found out I’m getting my new carpet in the apartment next week. I have started rearranging and cleaning my apartment so the work can go faster. I still have another day or two of work before the place is ready to go when the work crew gets here. I imagine I’ll have to vacate my apartment for a day or two while work is being done. But I have needed new carpet for years. Hopefully this can get done quickly.
I am now completely adjusted to my new medications after being on the new plan for four months. I definitely feel a positive change in my mental health. I am slower to anger and less apt to fall into depression. I have fewer hallucinations. The only time I have hallucinations is when I’m under high stress. I don’t just go out and wander nearly as much as I used to. While I am doing better mentally I did gain a lot of weight after hurting my back. Too little activity and too much comfort food. Since my back finally healed up a month ago I have recommitted to eating healthier and getting more exercise. I have given up sugared drinks and most unhealthy eating out. When I do eat out, it’s usually sub sandwiches or wraps at a deli. I’m still rebuilding my stamina after two months of inactivity. It is a slow and frustrating process. When I was rearranging my apartment I had to take more breaks than I am used to. It’s going to take a long time to get back to where I was before my car accident I think.
Speaking of car accident, I got my settlement from the accident a few days ago. I put most of it into savings as I pretty much already have most of what I want. I did buy some used books from amazon. They were some books I had my eyes on for awhile but was waiting until the settlement cleared. These will be my fall reading. I got lazy about reading when my back was hurting. I’m only now starting to get back into the reading routine. My car is still running well even though I still don’t drive as much. I guess since I became more content with my life and what I already have, I haven’t felt the need to go a lot of places and spend a lot of money. Buying books on amazon is the most frivolous purchase I have made in months. I just no longer feel the need to own a lot of things. I’ve been a minimalist for probably two years. It certainly makes it easier to clean my apartment and keep track of things. I am glad to no longer have to deal with clutter and junk. I refuse to be like those people on ‘Hoarders.’
This month of August has involved tying up loose ends and resolving long standing problems. I’m scheduled to get my carpet and blinds replaced. I got my settlement from the car accident. My back is healed. I’m back to exercising and eating healthier. I made it through the hottest parts of summer with fewer mental health problems than previous years. I’m adjusted to my new psych medications. I’m back to contacting my friends and family more often. I’m making a regular thing out of this blog. I’m thankful for the messages I get from you readers. I know I’m not always diligent about responding to everyone who writes to me. But thank you everyone who has read this blog and thank you everyone for the words of encouragement. Maybe I am making a positive difference with this blog.
Been feeling pretty good for the last few weeks. I haven’t had my traditional summer break down. Hopefully I can get through the next couple weeks without any issues. I usually start feeling better in early September with the passing of the warmest weather of summer. I never have dealt well with the heat of summer. I had problems with summer heat even before I had a mental illness diagnosis. I have always enjoyed winter and spring more than summer.
It might help that I really haven’t been outside much this summer. When I do exercise it’s usually walking the hallways of my apartment complex. I didn’t go outside much this summer so I was never truly exposed to the heat and humidity. I have driven less this summer and driving does sometimes cause me aggravation. I definitely try to avoid driving anywhere when I’m going through excessive paranoia and depression.
I think the change in psych medications has helped me greatly this summer. I was having flare ups every several weeks before I switched over. Haven’t had any prolonged breakdowns since. I switched over to a medication my DNA testing said would really benefit me. I know I have been less physically active but I have also been more mentally stable this summer than previous years. It’s a pity that I have to choose between physical health and mental stability. But years ago my only options would be long term hospitalization with no way to alleviate my symptoms or homelessness.
In spite my previous problems I am still hopeful for the future. Of the three medications I am currently on, two of them didn’t exist even five years ago. The DNA tests that told me what medications would be most effective didn’t exist until recently. When I was first diagnosed in 2000 we had to try medications at random and hope that something took. We were wandering in the dark in that regard. I am glad that I wasn’t born in 1930 instead of 1980 with this diagnosis. Back then my only treatments may have been long term hospitalizations and electroshock therapy. As it is I can essentially live alone, granted with a government sponsored disability pension and taxpayer sponsored medical treatment. But it could be that this route is cheaper than long term hospitals like the 1950s. Being on anti psych medication, having a small routine, having enough money to cover food, rent, and minor entertainment, living on my own, etc. is certainly more humane than being long term hospitalized, prison, homeless, or dead. For most of human history I would have been dead with this illness before my 36th birthday. As it is my worst problems now are occasional flare ups and my sleep apnea. I am thankful for medical science and it’s advances. I probably have a shorter life expectancy with this mental illness than I would normally, but I plan on staying around for awhile and seeing what I can accomplish in spite of this illness.
When I first applied for disability insurance ten years ago, I pretty much thought my life was over. I thought I would be regulated to a short and brutal life of being anonymous, poor, tormented, and unknown outside of family and a few friends. I didn’t plan on writing a blog about the experiences I’ve had over the years. But even with this diagnosis I didn’t want to waste my talents. I didn’t want my losing my shot at a career and a family to have been in vain. I didn’t want this mental illness to destroy everything. That’s why I blog as much as I do. I suppose if I knew anything about making videos I would start a small youtube channel about life with a mental illness. But that is probably a future project.
For a few weeks now I have been feeling quite decent and not having any flare ups of my schizophrenia. I had some minor flare up this afternoon. I’m not sure what caused it but fortunately I remained calm and quiet and just let the feeling pass. Traditionally during flare ups I call my family and just yell incoherent nonsense to them until I calm down, usually taking an hour or two. Fortunately this time I kept calm and kept quiet. I stayed in the apartment, turned off the tv and social media, put on a computer game, and kept myself distracted. After about a half hour of this I calmed down I went to a fast food restaurant near my place and ordered a large dinner. I brought it back to my apartment, ate quite well and drank lots of water. Oddly eating a protein rich meal can often make me more calm. I haven’t been eating as much as I normally do as I’m trying to get that back under control. For a week I had been eating protein only one meal per day. I broke out of that today. High protein foods like steaks and hamburgers have a calming effect on me, though I’m sure they’re not good when you’re trying to drop weight. I am convinced I’d never make it as a vegetarian.
I’m glad that I was able to find another route to ward off my flare ups. I’m glad that I was able to break out of past routines. I’m sure me yelling incoherencies to my family isn’t easy for them. My parents will be gone someday, probably sooner than I would like. While it might be true that problems associated with schizophrenia lessen with age, I do know I can’t yell at random friends and therapists and hope to stay out of a mental hospital or even jail. Perhaps my mental illness problems are starting to lessen. I know that my interest in dating is far, far less than it was even five years ago. I have heard that many men in their mid thirties start losing interest in sex and find more interest in their work or life’s calling. I’m also not as quick tempered as I was five to ten years ago. I have also noticed that I can better deal with the minor annoyances and irritations of every day living than I could even a few years ago. The flare ups I have had even going back to last Christmas weren’t as bad or frequent as the flare ups I was having in college. Perhaps it is that as I age I am learning what will make things worse and just make points of avoiding those things. Maybe this instance of just isolating and keeping myself distracted with as little noise as possible until I calm down is another tool in my toolbox. And maybe I should think about eating fewer carbs than I have been the last few weeks. But I am definitely glad I was able to prevent a flare up from becoming a full breakdown.
It’s been a quiet and calm week for me. I can tell the weather is starting to cool and that autumn is only a few weeks away. School has already started in my hometown. I was at the Wal Mart on 10pm on a Friday night and the place was packed with high school and college students doing last minute back to school shopping. Years ago when I was in school, it seemed like the place to be on the weekend before school started was parties that amounted to the last fling of summer. Maybe the younger people today have better priorities than what previous generations had. It was also the first time I used a self check out machine. Just scanned my items, swiped my debit card, and bagged my purchases and left. Sure this may put some cashiers out of work but who dreams about being a cashier working for minimum wage when they are kids?
From about early July to the first week of September has traditionally been rugged times for me. Both times I checked myself into a mental health hospital were in early September. Many of my major flare ups and breakdowns have come in July and August. The first time my parents saw me break down was around Independence Day back in 2000. I didn’t have the serious breakdown last summer besides yelling out a store clerk in early July (which I immediately apologized for). Originally I thought I didn’t have the breakdown last summer because I had extra resiliency because of my grandmother’s death. Besides yelling at one friend over the phone for a couple minutes and writing a nasty email to a second friend last month, I really haven’t had many problems this summer.
I still don’t go out as much as I had previously. Anymore I’m somewhat content to just stay home, read books, write blogs, play computer games, and Facebook with friends. I call friends and family on the phone almost daily. I am having more frequent and longer conversations with my best friend from college. We usually call each other every Sunday night and chat. For the first several months after he got married I kind of backed off and just gave him and his wife their space. He’s a huge history and sports geek (just like I am) so it’s not uncommon for us to be discussing baseball statistics, the ancient Greeks, 19th century German philosophy, and American foreign policy within the same phone conversation. I love people like that. Tragically I don’t find many people with those kinds of interest. My old friend Pastor Verne was one of those types. He was fluent in both ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek from his days in seminary. He was a brilliant man. I’m glad I got to know him. I hope to be that interesting and sharp if I ever make it to that age.
I got my insurance settlement this weekend. I wasn’t planning on anything extra from the accident besides getting my car fixed and coverage of my medical bills. But I am now sitting on top of a wind fall I wasn’t really expecting. I imagine most of it is going into the emergency fund. One of the positives of being debt free is I don’t have the pressure of having to make payments every month. It feels good to not have debts, to have an emergency fund, and a few options. Those are the best stress busters I have ever found.
As this is a lazy Saturday afternoon in late August I currently have a college football game on in the background as I’m writing this Football is one of my guilty pleasures. I’m not obsessed over it but I do like to have a game going on in the background on idle fall weekend afternoons. I do kind of feel bad about watching young men maim themselves for my enjoyment. But at least it’s not as violent as Roman gladiators fighting. I can tell that summer is all but over now that I’m watching a football game. From the Summer Olympics to fall football within a few days of each other.
Managing money is one of those vital survival skills that just isn’t taught in schools in many places. It certainly wasn’t taught at my school. My parents taught me how to balance a checkbook and told me to avoid credit cards when I was growing up. But that was the extent of my money training until I took business classes in college. I learned to keep track of money pretty well but the idea of avoiding credit card debt wasn’t a lesson that sunk in until I ran up some debts and was in danger of getting behind on payments. But everyone has to learn on their own time I suppose.
Over the years I learned how to make a budget for things like rent, food, clothes, medications, household supplies, and fuel for my car. I didn’t get it perfect at first and turned to a credit card to cover the difference. Big mistake. Before I knew it I had debts that weren’t getting any smaller even though I never got behind on my payments. Looking at debts with my only income being my disability pension and a part time minimum wage job scared me. I knew I couldn’t ask for more hours at work as that would put me in trouble with Social Security’s earning limits. So I had to drastically cut back on my purchases. I had to quit going out to eat. I had to quit going to the mall. I had to live on cheap groceries (think lots of Ramen noodles, potatoes, baloney, and rice). I had to cancel my magazine subscriptions. I had to stop buying books and computer games. I couldn’t buy new clothes every few months. I had to limit my driving. It took a lot of work but I eventually learned to live without going into debt. I’ve been debt free now for over two years. And I have less stress because of it. I am sure some of my mental illness problems were made worse because I was worried about my debts.
If you have a mental illness and your only means of support are disability insurance and or a job, I would highly recommend if you’re going to have a credit card to use it only for emergencies. I don’t have a credit card anymore as I know myself well enough to not trust myself with one. Instead I have a small emergency fund I can get to in case of emergencies but I don’t have immediate access to it. I have it set up I have to have at least twenty four hours to access it as I don’t keep it at my apartment or in my bank. I budget to where I buy extra non perishable food and fuel my car to full every time I get paid. I also maintain my car and don’t run it hard so I don’t have to make expensive repairs. I have learned how to have a good time with friends, family, and by myself without spending much money. I probably will never have much for money but I really don’t spend a lot to begin with. Having no debts and having an emergency fund are the best sleep aides and stress busters I have found. I don’t make much but I don’t worry because I don’t have to make payments to anyone. If you are on disability or have a limited income, I highly recommend getting out of debt and staying out.
Went to the family acreage for two days over the weekend. Helped the family with some odd jobs but mainly relaxed. I was needing a couple days out of my hometown and out of my apartment complex. Two days of a change of scenery allowed me to realize just how much I missed this summer with back problems. I’m only now getting some of my stamina back and adjusting to the warm weather.
This has been a tough summer physically. I hurt my back and I couldn’t do much of anything for two months. As a result I’ve gained 15 pounds since mid May. This definitely isn’t what I planned for this summer. While it was boring to have to spend all my time at home it wasn’t as tough mentally as I would have thought. Besides the one day when I had a breakdown on two friends I really haven’t had any major flare ups of the mental illness this summer. I think that the changes in medications I made in the spring have helped in that regard. It helps that I am intentionally avoiding stressful situations and people. I still don’t watch much news on tv or internet. About all I watch on tv anymore is live sports. During the Olympics I watched more tv in two weeks than I did the last four months combined. I wouldn’t have cable if it didn’t come with my apartment. I just don’t watch much for regular tv anymore. Almost everything I want to watch anymore is online.
I can tell that fall is almost here. The weather isn’t as hot and the nights are getting longer. The nights are getting cooler and school has started. I feel like I squandered this summer since I couldn’t do much. But I’ll just have to make it up this fall.
Now that my back has completely healed I’ve been getting out of my apartment more the last couple weeks. At my most recent doctor’s appointment I found out I gained 15 pounds this summer. Most of this is no doubt due to lack of physical activity and my eating too much comfort foods. I did spend this summer with alternating periods of depression and irritability. I spent too much time indoors and exercising my mind and not enough exercising my body. In short, this summer has been a loss in terms of physical health and activity. The only positive of this summer is that I’m posting more on this blog and have gotten some more audience.
But fall is just a few weeks away. I can already tell the days are getting shorter. We also are no longer having several days in a row with nothing but scorching heat. Looking ahead I see that we’re supposed to have some more cooler weather over the next several days. I have spent most of my afternoons indoors avoiding the heat. Since I spent the first month of summer on the mend I never adjusted to the warmer weather. I normally have bad times during the summer. Besides the blow ups on a couple friends I haven’t had any real serious problems this summer. I know that I still have another three to four weeks of traditionally bad times ahead. Hopefully I can make it through without anything else major. I made it through last summer before having problems in October but I think working through my grandmother’s death made me more resilient because I had no options. So my problems last year weren’t avoided as much as they were delayed. So far things look good mentally.
I have been bored by the forced inactivity this summer. Besides seeing my family a few times I really haven’t had much for social activity since Memorial Day. But with the weather starting to get cooler and the nights starting to get longer, maybe my social activities will increase in the coming weeks. I admit I am not sorry to see this summer go. I’m ready for cooler weather again.
I see that many schools in my part of the United States are starting their school years again. The college in my hometown starts next week so we will have 18 to 23 year old college students trickling in throughout this week. I actually enjoy my hometown more when the college students are back. I used to go up to the 24 hour Wal Mart during the school year just to see what the college students were up to. Many college age people spent their overnight hours at the Wal Mart just doing goofy college aged stuff. I know I’m old enough now I wouldn’t pass as a college student but I do find the overnight crowd watching entertaining. Reminds me of when my friends and I used to do similar things when we were in college. I’ll probably restart that tradition when school gets going. My friends and I often went to the all night diners on Halloween to see college people and older in their costumes. I didn’t go to the bars on Halloween because the music was always too loud and I don’t deal well with drunk people.
I readily admit to being more nostalgic for my college years than my high school years. For one, most people in college were there because they wanted to be and not because they were legally forced to. I loved college because I, for the first time in my life, wasn’t penalized for being smart and eccentric. I met some eccentric and cool people who made me look neurotypical. One of my friends in college was an incredibly intelligent girl who made me look like I was mentally standing still. We were in a class together that involved lots of writing and class discussions. She always made it a point to keep everyone on our toes and sharp. She had less tolerance for ignorance than I. I miss her and I regret that we had a falling out. I had another cool friend in that class that was really sharp and a real pleasant girl to be around. She had a kind word for everyone regardless. She had her beliefs but she wasn’t as abrasive about hers as I could be about mine. Especially before I became diagnosed I tended to be as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face when I thought someone’s ideas weren’t sound. I never learned the fine art of diplomacy until my college career was almost over.
I enjoyed the all night conversations in the dorms. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to be up until sunrise talking with my roommate, my neighbors, or just random people in the dorm and still be on time for an 8 am class after a couple cups of cowboy coffee. My best friend in college managed to sweet talk the dorm dad into allowing him to have a coffee maker in his dorm. I slept a lot in the afternoons so I could be up all night with the rest of my dorm. I spent a lot of time playing pool and trivia games at the student center. I got to where I was decent at pool but developed a reputation for being so good at trivia games that no one wanted to play me. My friends and I played lots of board games. Trivial Pursuit, Axis and Allies, and Risk were quite common for us. We didn’t play a lot of card games until I moved off campus for my senior year. I didn’t go to any wild fraternity parties as I went to a Christian college and we had an officially dry campus.
I did pledge a fraternity in my freshman year and was active for a couple years. I went independent in my junior year once it became obvious to me that I had to spend more time studying if I wanted to graduate, especially with a mental illness and changing my major. I didn’t do any sports in college besides intramural softball. I still managed to do lots of flag football and ultimate frisbee on the campus green when I was in school. Ruined many t-shirts and gym shoes because of playing in the rain and mud too many times. They should make ultimate frisbee an Olympic sport. It is a real sport. I knew a couple guys who got broken ankles in those games. I enjoyed lifting weights in the school fitness center. I didn’t drive much in college except for road trips. My roommate and I went to New Mexico over Thanksgiving break one year to visit his long distance girlfriend. My best friend and I went trout fishing and hiking in the Black Hills a couple times during Spring Break. Sometimes we’d go to the next college town over and hit the cheap movie theaters. Since most of my friends weren’t drinkers we didn’t do the bars in college. Besides the music in bars is far too loud for any kind of conversation.
If there is a point to my ramblings about my college years back in the pre wireless internet ages, it is in spite my problems with mental illness I still had a good time in college. I made some pretty cool friends I still hear from and have some pleasant memories. I was able to have a better time in college than high school because we were just more accepting of other people and their quirks. People accepted me despite my issues and problems and I accepted them too. I don’t think back on those years often enough. But I certainly feel good when I do.
I’ve been doing this blog for over three years. And I absolutely enjoy every minute I spend blogging. I enjoy it more than any traditional job I ever had. I enjoy it even more than the classes I took in college. I don’t have to be forced to write about mental illness. I would do this for free. I am doing it for free unless I get any kind of advertising revenue or sponsors. I wouldn’t refuse any money that comes my way even though I am not delusional enough to think I can get off disability pension from blogging. I have been doing this blog for three years and not made a cent off it. In my twelve years of overall writing I have probably broke even between selling print on demand books and what I spent advertising my blog through Facebook. I don’t suppose many people can claim they have a passionate hobby that almost pays for itself.
After spending several years with selling only a few dozen books of mental illness essays and poetry I really had no expectations with this blog. I didn’t know what kind of a following I would have or even if I would have a following outside my mother and a few friends. So I set up shop with a free blog site and started writing blogs about what it is like to have schizophrenia to people who can’t imagine it. This isn’t the first blog I ever did. A friend and I did a blog several years ago. It never gained more than a couple hundred views because we were unfocused and not posting regularly. I did a blog about my poetry for awhile before I found out I wasn’t much of a poet and there really isn’t a great demand for average poetry.
After examining what I liked to read, what I was good at writing, and what I gained good audiences from, I decided three years ago to focus on writing about my experiences with mental illness. That’s when I gained more than a few readers. After years of experimenting with styles and genres, I came to the conclusion I do best writing nonfiction essays from the first person point of view. I had written rough drafts for two coming of age type novels both from first person view. They didn’t really hold together and I later found out for fiction novels that first person is tougher than third person point of view.
Once I found my niche and style I had a few visitors coming in with every blog post. After it became a weekly posting I had a few more visitors. The thing that helped me gain more visitors was posting often. A blogger simply can’t build any kind of audience by posting only once or twice a month or only when the creative muse moves them. Most of my favorite individual youtube content creators post several times a week and have for several years. I’m not at that kind of proficiency, but perhaps I could be if I keep posting material. I think it helps to get a body of work of several dozen postings at minimum so that search engines can find your work easier. As of now I have had close to two hundred postings over the last three years and a little over 9,500 visitors from 90 different nations. There are bloggers (and youtube stars) who get that even on bad days, but I’ve been working at this for only a few years and haven’t done as much advertising as some people. Being on a limited budget with a disability pension I have to be choosy about what kind of advertising I do as it still costs money to get truly noticed.
Early on in the first several months I got some audience from following other bloggers and leaving positive comments on their articles. I left nothing but positive comments. If I didn’t agree with a particular post I just didn’t comment. I didn’t want to gain the reputation of a troll or troublemaker. Having a good reputation on the internet is more valuable than gold. I got some following from following other bloggers and I tried to direct some of my readers to bloggers who helped me out. But leaving positive comments on other blogs, following other blogs, and trying to refer traffic to other blogs helped me out in the early months.
Even though I have a few years of blogging experience and some following I don’t consider myself established by any means. I don’t think there can be anything really established as far as the internet and the current information revolution goes. I was learning as I went when I wrote my first words twelve years ago and I’m still learning new things even today. I was a bit frustrated in the early years when I would get rejection notices in the mail several times a week. I was also frustrated in the early postings when I wasn’t getting more than a few visitors per post. But looking back on it, I see how rough and raw most of those writings were. I’m glad they didn’t get published. And I’m sure in several more years I’ll look at some of the things I’m writing now as rough and unpolished. It’s a continuous process that never ends. I hope to always keep improving as a writer so I can better explain to people what living with a mental illness is really like.