Over the years of working with schizophrenia I have had to reinvent myself a few times. When I was first diagnosed in 2000, I was a wreck. I pretty much left my dorm room only to go to classes and go to the mess hall twice a day. I couldn’t concentrate in classes or doing homework for longer than a couple minutes at a time. I was trying different medications twice a month just hoping to find something that would work. As a result of these struggles I had to drop out of my pre med major. I even had to take a semester off from college because I was in danger of flunking out entirely. After a few months off the academic grind and finally finding some medications that worked well, I was able to return to school be it with a different major. I decided to do business management because I really knew little about money and business and thought I could find a job in that field once I recovered. I never did completely recover but I did graduate college with a business degree.
After a year of working in sales I tried my hand at getting a masters’ in business. At the time my dream was to teach basic economics and personal finance at a small college. That was before I realized how tough it was to get tenure and that the majority of junior college instructors are not full time. After two semesters in the program my grades were hurting enough that I lost my graduate assistant job. I could have stayed in the program but I would have to go deep into debt. So I left the program. After my failing to become a college instructor, I got a job in a factory. It was simple enough work but I couldn’t adapt to the overnight hours and my work suffered as a result. Two months of this I decided I would put in for a transfer to morning shift. I was denied so I quit. It also didn’t help that I was threatened by one of my coworkers with violence because of my mistakes. A few years later I heard that the factory was shut down. So many people lost their jobs, probably due to automation. It made me kind of thankful I didn’t stick it out with that job.
About the same time I failed at the factory, I applied for disability pension. It took two years to get approved for it, and that was even after I hired an attorney to fast track the process. Here I was with a mental illness that clearly ruined my ability to work and I was getting to where I was running out of money. Shortly after I gave up on the factory, I moved into low income housing because that was all I could afford. I could have moved back with my parents but the mental health care in that rural of an area was quite primitive. And I was too embarrassed to face the people of my hometown with a mental illness. Ten years ago there was even less understanding about mental illness than there is now. Small town gossip is vicious and unavoidable. I didn’t like living in my parents’ town as a kid because I never fit in and my skills sets weren’t conducive to a farming dominated economy. I may live in a town of about 40,000 people (which isn’t big compared to many places) but it has far more to offer than my parents’ town of less than 500 people. I just didn’t want to go back home, admit defeat, and face the scorn of the people of my hometown. To this day I still won’t go back for class reunions or alumni events. Too many people just don’t want to accept that mental illness is real.
As a result of having to abandon my childhood hometown, I had to find other means of socializing. That’s about the time I signed up for a Facebook account. The majority of my contacts on Facebook are with people I met in college. I don’t have that many friends from my old grade school and high school days. I hear from really only one of my friends from my high school days on a regular basis anymore. One of my best friends from junior high I haven’t talked to in over ten years. Some of my classmates I haven’t seen since graduation. But I did enjoy college much more than high school, even if it was a religious school and I was beginning to question the teachings and dogmas of the religion grew up with even back then. The majority of my friends from college are still in the same denomination I grew up in, but they seem to be understanding on why I don’t attend church anymore. I haven’t been a regular in church in almost ten years. It just seems ineffective and pointless. People have been praying for cures for illnesses and deliverance from danger for centuries. Sometimes they get what they want, sometimes they don’t with no rhyme or reason behind it. I guarantee the early Christians being fed to lions in Roman coliseums were praying like mad, just like the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe, or the people killed in every other crisis. I gave up on organized religion once I came to realize that if there is a God (and let’s be honest, no one knows for exactly sure), than God was hap hazard in spreading the blessings and curses around. If my friends and family want to continue going to church and believing what they do, I refuse to stand in the way. I just won’t partake.
Once I left religion and made up my mind I would never marry, I had to find other outlets for socializing. I joined writers’ groups, I took part in mental illness support groups, I volunteered at a museum for a summer, I started writing seriously, I worked on a blog with an old high school friend of mine, I wrote the rough outline for what would be this blog, I wrote rough drafts for two novels, I wrote hundreds of poems and even got a few of them published, I self published my mental illness writings and poems and sold a few dozen copies of those through local bookstores, I made friends with fellow artists and writers, I made friends with a few smart and eccentric people even in Section 8 housing.
Sadly several of my old friends in my apartment complex died in the last couple years. I left my job at the county courthouse once I found out I could live on my disability pension and could get serious about writing. Several months after I left my job at the courthouse I started this blog. As the months went on I started getting a bit of an audience. I found out I have a talent for putting ideas and words into written form. At first I did this blog only every two weeks. I was getting a few readers that way. After a year I decided to post once a week. I started getting more readers and some feedback. Found out I was fulfilling a niche in the writing market that many people don’t know exists.
Mental illness is a problem that isn’t going to be swept under the rug anymore. With more people feeling stressed about possibly losing their jobs to automation and globalization, people my age bracket and younger realizing that in spite their best efforts they won’t have as nice of a house or the job security of their parents and grandparents, and people just being depressed and stressed about the changes and crisises going on that we hear all about because of mass communications, mental health issues are going to be affecting more people. And I’m writing about life with mental health issues, not having traditional employment, and having to make meaning and purpose in my life inspite all that has happened in the last twenty years. And I will continue to post these blogs. I don’t care if I make a dime off my writing anymore. Most writers don’t make anything off their writings anyway. I just want these writings to stick around for a long time and maybe make a positive difference for those affliceted with mental illness and their loved ones.