Optimism and mental illness are two things that probably don’t normally go together. Yet after fighting through a mental illness for almost twenty years and still being in one piece and still functional, I think I’ve more than earned the right to be an optimist. And I think being an optimist is a right that too few people take advantage of.
Why shouldn’t I be an optimist? I have access to a world wide audience through the technological achievement that is the internet. Fifteen years ago when I started writing poetry in my spare time, I had never even heard of a blog. Youtube didn’t exist and neither did Facebook. Even though I don’t make much money from my writings, I have a much bigger audience now than I could have imagined ten years ago. From the numerous messages I get from readers, I know I’m making a difference. That’s more than I thought would happen in 2006 after I lost my job at the university and applied for disability. Back then I thought I was going to be condemned to a life of poverty and quiet desperation. I also thought I lost most purpose for my life as it became painfully obvious I could never hold a regular job and support myself. Yet here I am in 2017 with a decent blog, relatively stable mental state, and I’m still here. Sure I may die earlier than most people without mental illness, but thanks to the internet, modern medicine, advanced counseling techniques, and social safety nets, I have been able to tell my story about living with a mental illness. Hopefully I’ve been able to dispel some myths about mental illness and break down some barriers. I just hope that the conversation about mental illness will continue. As far as I can tell, the mentally ill are among the last people that it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against. I hope to be part of changing that nonsense.
After surviving with mental illness for twenty years and still being functional and able to live on my own, I have become more optimistic now at age 36 than I was at age 16. I have gotten optimistic enough that I have found myself less and less tolerant of pessimist, naysayers, and those who spew doom and gloom. I have left friendships with people who were incurable pessimists. Though you wouldn’t know it from the news sites, but we are actually living in some of the most prosperous and peaceful times in history. Of course you aren’t going to hear this from politicians and news casts because news casts and politicians depend on attention and we humans are naturally more likely to notice bad news and threats. It served us well when we were ice age hunter gatherers but it’s causing us in the more settled and civilized world undue stress and anxiety. I can tell you from personal experience that most of what people worry about either never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought. One of the reasons I refuse to watch the news is that it’s nothing but bad news all the time. You hear nothing about science advances, humanitarian efforts, or any kind of good news. But good news isn’t fit to print, now is it? And I for one am tired of always hearing bad news and doom. If one were to listen to the “experts”, the world has always been heading for tragedy. The sky is not falling. We’ve had problems in the past but we solved them. We’ll continue to solve our current and future problems. Mark my words.
After surviving the worst of what schizophrenia has to offer, I have no patience for pessimists and doom sayers. Sell that snake oil to someone else. While you worry about problems and do nothing to solve said problems, there are far more people than you will ever know working on solving the world’s problems. Quit worrying already.