Winter Routines and Loneliness

Haven’t written in awhile.  But I guess I haven’t had much to report.  Been quite stable for a few weeks now.  I still sleep a great deal, mainly after I stay awake quite late.  I haven’t really gone anywhere for most of the winter.  We haven’t had as much snow as previous years and we have probably seen the worst winter is going to offer.  It did help that our traditional mid winter thaw was longer than usual, lasting almost two weeks.  I was able to spend more time outside and been out of my apartment more the last two weeks.  We have probably only a month of cold and icy weather left before spring comes into full effect.

It’s been a quiet and lonely winter for me.  I haven’t had house guests since Christmas and I haven’t had much for conversation with my neighbors this winter.  I think my social skills are deteriorating as a result.  But I have gotten to where I actually prefer to be alone with my thoughts, my writings, my computers, and my reading and research.  And I have gotten to where I really don’t mind sleeping ten hours a day.  I imagine as the days continue to get longer I’ll start sleeping less.  I usually sleep a lot in winter.

I haven’t really been depressed or irritable for weeks now.  I don’t know if this is because I avoid socializing or just avoid confrontations overall.  I still don’t watch any traditional tv and haven’t for weeks.  If it wasn’t for my video games I wouldn’t even own a tv.  Overall I’m getting by on little in terms of material possessions and trying to enjoy everyday as much as possible.

 

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Winter Routines and Down Time

 

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My life has been essentially quiet and uneventful since Christmas.  We had a pretty cold January and early February so I didn’t really go anywhere except to pick up groceries and house supplies for the last two months.  We had our traditional mid winter thaw the last week or so.  So I’ve been spending some time outside watching the squirrels and birds.  I see the cranes and Canadian geese are starting to migrate back.  They are usually quite thick near my town from the last week in February until middle March.  I’m going to take a few hours sometime next week and just watch the birds along the Platte River just outside my town like I do every March.

I traditionally love to travel and see new places.  But I haven’t been outside of Nebraska since my friend Matt’s wedding almost two years ago.  And I can tell that the lack of travel and new experiences are making me stale and itchy.  Believe it or not, I really don’t like the sedentary lifestyle.  When I still held traditional jobs, I usually did my best at jobs where I was moving a lot and it didn’t matter if I got sweaty or dirty.  I admit that since I had the sedentary lifestyle forced on me, first by my car accident and then spending a summer with a messed up back, I have gotten lazy.  And by getting lazy I can tell I have lost much of my stamina and enjoyment of just doing simple things like walking around the park or going to the all night deli to pick up some Chinese food.  I have recently started going back to the all night deli more often, especially if I’m going to be up late.

I am still not as active as I would like to be, but I can tell that it is beginning to come back.  I am traditionally not very active during winters, at least not physically.  I usually read a lot and have traditionally done some of my best writing work during the winter.  Most of the books I read this winter were about future technology trends and popular science.  I also listen to a lot of audiobooks and current events type lectures on youtube.  I tend to utilize youtube and my books more in winter than the spring or fall.  Traditionally during the summers I do most of my errands in the morning than spend the hottest parts of the afternoon reading and writing.  But I still do the bulk of my brain work during the winter.

I can tell that the lack of physical activity and travel is making me easily bored.  It is also tough in that I haven’t seen my close friends or family at all since Christmas.  I fear that I’m losing my social skills.  I don’t socialize much with my neighbors in my complex as I have little in common with them.  Most of my neighbors are senior citizens or people with physical disabilities that can’t do much of anything.  I don’t know many people in here with mental health issues who are still in reasonably good physical health.  It is kind of lonely in here as far as socializing goes.  I can also tell that the lack of socializing and physical activity has taken a toll on my physical health.  I just hope that once spring sets in a few weeks from now, I’ll be able to get more active again.

Just Because It’s Not Paid Work Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Valuable Work

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Some of my critics will love to point out that I don’t have a “real job” and that I’m only able to stay alive because I am “leeching” off the taxpayers of my country.  To which I respond, “Let’s see you fight through a mental illness for twenty years that no one can understand and some even deny exists and then you tell me how much of a leech and a cancer on society I am.”  I have had people who I previously thought were my friends tell me I’m “wasting my life” not working some minimum wage drudgery because it’s the “useful”, “honorable”, and “manly” thing to do.  I have had former friends tell me my blogging about mental illness is “a waste of time.”  Needless to say such short sighted jerks I no longer keep in contact with.

Who gets to define what is honorable and useful to begin with?  I don’t remember getting to vote on such ideas.  By what right do now former friends get to tell me I am wasting my life and time blogging about living with a mental illness?  I can illustrate what living with a mental illness is like.  Many who are mentally ill are unable to articulate what living with it is like.  It’s a lonely existence.  It’s a turbulent existence.  It is a horrible feeling knowing I will never be able to attempt to achieve my dreams.  It is terrible knowing I will never have a family.  It sucks knowing that through no fault of my own I’m always going to be on the fringes of society.  And it scares me that I’m always going to be in poor health and probably die at a younger age than most people.  The public at large needs to know what life is like for the forgotten mentally ill people.  Many mentally ill people rotate in and out of jail because they aren’t getting the kind of treatment they need.  Many mentally ill people are homeless and not by choice.  Some, like myself, have to live on the outside of society looking in because we are not accepted by society as a whole.  It can be a very dreary and dark existence.  I don’t wish the ups and downs of mental illness on anyone, not even my worst enemies.

Why is paid drudge work considered honorable yet unpaid volunteer work, such as what I do with this blog, isn’t?  Why do I have to work as a janitor or a convenience store clerk to “earn my keep?”  As easily as we can grow food, build shelters, and harvest energy anymore, we don’t necessarily need what economists call ‘full employment.’  We don’t need several layers of bureaucracy or managers of managers or ‘inspectors of inspectors’ as Buckminister Fuller put it many years ago.

We don’t have 90 percent of our workforce on farms or factories like we did during the Industrial Revolution because we have machines and scientific processes that can grow crops and make goods far better than we could in bygone years.  I am convinced that holding on the antiquated and obsolete idea that everyone has to have a job is actually hurting us as a society and holding us back as a species.  Besides, when I was working I heard my coworkers and bosses complain and whine about how much they hated their jobs.  It seems to me that everyone enjoys complaining about how much they hate their jobs.  Hating your job, it seems to me, is more American than apple pie, the Stars and Stripes, or baseball. I never understood why normal people took pride in their misery and anger.  That doesn’t seem mentally balanced at all to me.

If there is a point to this post, it’s that maybe we as developed nations should seriously consider letting machines and automation take over as much drudgery work as possible, tax the workings of said machines and automations, and just give people a regular stipend just for being citizens of a post industrial nation.  Pretty much just free people up from the idea of having to have a repetitive and boring job just to eat and pay rent.  These boring and repetitive jobs should have been outsourced to machines and automations a long time ago.  And they will be assigned to the machines eventually.  No politician can prevent the automation revolution that is already underway.

How many kids grow up dreaming of being convenience store clerks, working at Wal Mart, or working on an assembly line?  No, kids grow up dreaming of being things like astronauts, artists, scientists, explorers, performers, etc.  It’s when we start telling these kids they need to ‘quit dreaming’ or ‘get a real job’ that they stop striving for the stars and quit fulfilling their potential. And I think that telling these kids to kill their dreams to do something just for the money is immoral and monstrous.

In closing, the next time you hear some supposedly wise grown up tell a kid or young adult that they need to get a real job or work for money, just remember that the most important job in the world doesn’t pay a dime of money to any of it’s workers.  That job is, of course, parenthood.

 

How The Internet Made My Mental Illness More Manageable

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Even though I haven’t gotten out of my hometown all winter I have still managed to keep in contact with friends and family.  Thanks to the internet I keep in contact with my old friends via Facebook.  And I’ve made several new acquaintances that would be friends if only we lived in the same town through the forums and groups I participate in.  I’m involved in a few futurists’ pages as well as some science pages.  I guess I really don’t interact much with other writers or bloggers, not as much as I should.  I used to belong to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild but I let that membership lapse as there weren’t many guild members living near me and few of the guild members were my age or younger.  I guess even mentally ill people like to spend time with people similar to them.

With my Wal Mart special smart phone I keep in contact with family members a couple times a week.  If my dad happens to be in town, he will send me a text message asking if I want to have lunch with him or mom will ask me if I want her to pick up something from Wal Mart.

Speaking of shopping, I don’t really buy that much in traditional stores.  I still go to the all night supermarket to get groceries every couple weeks.  But even there I find out about their sales and specials through the store’s web page.  I still get my psychiatric meds through a traditional pharmacy.  But even there I get automated reminders that tell me when I’m due for refills.  The only time I actually deal with another person is when I go to the pharmacy to physically retrieve my refills.  Even that may become a thing of the past in a few years if automated pharmacies and delivery drones pick up traction.

Most of what I buy anymore outside of groceries, fuel for my car, and basic home items, I now buy online.  When I buy books, it’s online.  When I buy computer games, it’s online.  When I buy movies or tv shows, it’s through amazon’s digital service.  I get all my music online through spotify.  Most of my tv watching is done via youtube or netflix.  Many of my computer games now have online support and updates.  I now buy most of my clothes online as I do have rare sizes.  Sure it is a little more expensive, but I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  As much as I appreciate second hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, even they can be a roll of the dice in terms of finding what I need.

Comparing what I spend now to what I spent several years ago on my living expenses, I’m now actually spending less than I was ten years ago.  With my social security disability pension being what it is, I make less than fifteen thousand dollars per year.  Even though that puts me below the poverty line, at least by American standards, I don’t feel poor.  I have access to treasure troves of music that would put any music collection of twenty years ago to shame.  Thanks to wikipedia I’ll never have to buy an encyclopedia set.  Thanks to online clothing stores, I don’t need to settle for clothing that doesn’t really fit or doesn’t look good on me as long as I keep my measurements up to date.  Thanks to online news and entertainment, I really don’t need cable tv.  The only thing I use cable tv for anymore is live sporting events.  Even at that I watched some college football games online last year.  So I really don’t need to buy a ticket, navigate a crowded stadium, and sit in the freezing cold to watch Nebraska Huskers football anymore.  I can sit on my own couch, grill my own meats, and not worry about anyone blocking my view or having to go down several flights of stairs to get to the restroom.  I’ll keep watching sporting events online even if I really have little interest of seeing them in person.  Unless, of course, the Colorado Rockies ever got back to the World Series or if the U.S. ever hosted the World Cup soccer tournament again.

I can get even medical advice online anymore, thanks to services like WebMD.  I can type in my symptoms and see if what ails me is serious enough to go to the doctor or not.  So I don’t usually have to go to the doctor unless I’m really sick or my mental illness problems are really out of line.  I haven’t had to go to the psych hospital in over three years but it is good that the option is still there.  Since I spend so much time online, I have developed some friendships with people I’ll no doubt never meet.  And I get to post about mental illness and it’s ups and downs in a forum that didn’t exist even twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago I would have had the same thoughts, but no means of recording them for a public audience.  I would have had to suffer in silence if I had these problems as recently as the 1980s instead of the 2000s and 2010s.  We are living in a totally different world than the one I grew up in during the 1980s and early 1990s.  And I’m completely glad for it.  I can hardly wait to see what other cool stuff and finding come out in the next twenty five years.  Thanks to the internet, I can watch this new world unfold and take root from the comfort of my own living room and not even leave my small home town.

Laughter as Therapy

Over the last few days I’ve broken out of some of my old routines.  I have stopped spending much time on social media.  I have quit watching news videos on youtube and have even shut off my internet news feed.  I’m trying to break the cycle of sleeping so much.  And most importantly, I have taken the time to watch some comedy videos on youtube.

I think one of my biggest problems over the last several months was I wasn’t taking any time to unwind and relax.  I have been so focused on how unhappy and angry many people in my life have been that I forgot to relax.  I think that far too many people are wound up for too much of the time.  I think there really isn’t enough humor and laughter, at least not in recent months.  Too many people spend way too much time worrying about things they simply cannot control.  Are you worried about terrorism?  You’re much more apt to be killed by a drunk driver or die from falling in the shower than you are from a terrorist attack.  Are you worried about climate change?  There are probably hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers working on practical solutions and alternatives to polluting energy while all you can probably do by yourself is drive less and recycle your aluminum cans.  Are you worried about some drug resistant super bug decimating our species?  Scientists and doctors all over the world are actually working on solutions while all you do is fret over the latest news reports.

In short, worry by itself is good for nothing.   That’s why I decided to stop watching current events type things and dystopian science fiction, which is most science fiction anymore, and find comedy videos on youtube.  Been watching a lot of Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, and John Oliver the last several days.  I have also watched some old Penn and Teller shows.  I have found that I can handle some current events and news if mixed in with healthy doses of humor and satire.  And let’s face it, a lot of what has been going on the last several months looks like episode scripts that were too outlandish even for South Park.  And I doubt that I’m the only person who hasn’t resorted to humor to help deal with difficulty.  There are reasons that The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight are as popular, if not more so, than some news shows on traditional cable news networks.

And I think the renewed focus on humor and happiness is beginning to pay off.  I haven’t really felt depressed or irritable for a few days.  I’m not eating as much fast food.  I’m going to bed earlier.  And I’m not worrying about things and other people as much.  I just feel like I have a better quality of life overall these last few days.  And it’s mainly because I sought out reasons to laugh again.

Socializing One on One (We Are Not That Different)

A Life Of Mental Illness

I have been trying to figure out normal people for most of my life.  I have tried to find a basic statement to make sense of my fellow man, much like Einstein’s theory of relativity or the equation Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration.  The only real conclusion I have come to can be summed by Tommy Lee Jones in the first Men In Black movie when he said, “The individual is smart, but people as a group are stupid, panicky animals.”  Ever since I was a young child I have found taking my fellow humans one on one much easier and enriching than dealing with crowds, groups, or cliques.  I have always gotten along with most of my school mates and elders when working with them one on one.  Not so much when they were in large groups.  People have always seemed more civil and easy going if I…

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Thoughts on Socializing While At Work

A Life Of Mental Illness

I wanted to originally do this in one post.  But I had to break it into two smaller posts.  Consider this my buy one, get one free promotion. I do enjoy having good conversations one on one or with small groups.  But far too often we are kept apart from people on an individual basis.  We seldom have in depth conversations with our coworkers because there isn’t enough time during the work day to just sit down and chat with your coworkers.  And most people are usually too tired to spend time with coworkers at the end of a shift or they have family obligations.  We work with these people every day, sometimes for years at a time, yet we rarely get to really know them.  The irony about most jobs is that much of what is done during an eight hour work day is redundant busy work, especially in…

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