Optimism and Mental Illness

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.

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Road Trip

Went on a road trip to see my parents at their place over the weekend.  It was the first time in months I had been outside of my hometown.  It was good to have a change of pace and get away for a couple days.  My parents are clearing out some of their old clutter as they are preparing to move.  It’s looking more like we’re going to move to be near my brother’s family all the time.  Mom and Dad are looking at different places online almost everyday.  So it looks like if they get their house and the acreage sold, then we’ll be moving probably in late summer.

Mentally I’m looking forward to possibly be living in a larger area.  I have lived in small towns my entire life.  But I have always wanted to live in or near a major city at least once in my life.  Now it looks like it might happen.  I definitely feel like I’m missing out on my brother’s family as I see his kids only a few times a year.  And I regret that my brother and I aren’t close.  We weren’t close as kids and unfortunately that carried over into adulthood.  I don’t dislike him or anything like that, it’s just that we don’t have much in common.  I guess we never have.

In other news, things have been kind of quiet for the last several days.  I may be sleeping less than I did during the winter, but that is fine by me.  Mentally I’m feeling quite stable.  Haven’t been having problems with hallucinations or delusional thoughts for weeks.  I also don’t have problems with depression or anxiety.  Things have become quite stable.

Making and Losing Friends and Mental Illness

Keeping friends over the years while having schizophrenia has always been tough.  Even before I became mentally ill I had a hard time making friends.  But I am convinced that much of this was probably due to the environment I grew up in.  Most people in my hometown were farmers or cowboys.  I never did want to farm and the cowboy life never appealed to me.  So I guess by the time I went to college I was already behind my peers in terms of social skills.  Having schizophrenia hurt my social skills in that the illness could make me standoffish and not understanding normal people humor and activities.  I have always preferred reading and science pursuits over talking about sports, campus gossip, or whatever tv shows were trendy that season.  I am still this way.

As a result of my mental illness and the environment I grew up in, I never really did learn how to make friends easily.  I never did have normal interests so most of the friends I did make wouldn’t be considered normal either.  My best friend from college is a high school history teacher who is an avid sports fan.  He is also an avid reader of history, philosophy, economics, and classic literature.  Even though we haven’t been in college for over a dozen years, I still talk to him about once a week.  It’s not uncommon for our conversations to involve talking about baseball statistics, Austrian economics, medieval battle tactics, and the philosophy of Nietchze all in the same phone call.  He has never made an issue of me having a mental illness or not having traditional employment.  I don’t know if he regularly reads my blogs but he does think I’m doing a good thing with these writings.  He’s even suggested that it’s possible that if I keep writing, some big online blog service like Huffington Post or Breitbart might hire me.  A man can dream, right?  In short, friends like this don’t come along everyday and are worth holding onto.  My best friend from high school, she’s pretty much the same way.  Both of these people I may not get to see very often but I do keep in contact with.

Other people who I have friended over the years haven’t turned out so well.  I had one friend that I’ve been having a falling out with for months over aspects of my mental illness.  This former friend doesn’t seem to respect the fact that I don’t want to date.  I’ve dated before while working through a mental illness.  It sucks.  Dating is supposed to be enjoyable.  What I went through wasn’t.  As far as love goes, that’s what family is for.  As far as sex goes, well I’m not a dog in that I can’t live without sex.  Surprise, surprise; there are men who aren’t interested in having sex all the time.  And the older I get the less interest I have in sex.

This person also doesn’t respect the fact that I don’t hold a regular job.  First of all, when I did work a regular job, there were days I would have panic attacks while on the job and even before I went to work.  Many days these panic attacks were so bad I would vomit from the anxiety.  I would also get physically ill from the stress and anxiety I would feel at work with schizophrenia.  And dealing with office politics, well that was super stressful in itself.  In short, I never want to hold a regular job again considering all the problems it caused me.  I’ll go to prison before I go back to work.

So for any person to even infer that I’m wasting my life not being at some minimum wage drudgery that’s going to get automated in a few years anyway, well that’s not the kind of respect friends show for each other.  I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t respect me or my decisions.  And I especially can’t respect anyone who thinks I’m not “doing my part” or not “being a productive member of society” just because I don’t hold some nonsense job that a machine can do hundreds of times better.  Let the machines have all the damned jobs as far as I’m concerned.  I spent most of my life listening to people gripe and moan about how much they hated their jobs, as if it was an honor to hate your job, hate your boss, hate your coworkers, and hate your customers.  Any wonder why millions of American jobs got outsourced overseas?  After spending years fighting a mental illness and years trying to work in spite a mental illness, I don’t want to go back into the toxic work environment.  It wrecks havoc on my mental stability.  And if anyone can’t respect my decision, then screw them.  I don’t want people like that in my life.

 

Insomnia and Mental Health

For most of the winter I had the problem of sleeping too much.  I’d sometimes sleep until noon or even later and still be wanting to sleep by midnight.  Now my problem is that I just have a real hard time staying asleep, especially in the overnight hours.  Of course I’m concerned about this.  Sometimes major problems follow large changes in sleep patterns for me.  Getting good sleep is important for controlling mental illness problems.

This has been going on for several days.  One of the changes I made in an attempt to get more consistent sleep is taking my medications earlier in the night.  Sometimes my meds can make me sleepy.  Another thing I have done is cutting back on caffeine after 4pm.  I admit I love my caffeine, especially coffee and soda pop.  But perhaps I’m getting more sensitive to caffeine as I age.  But the cutbacks on caffeine make me less jittery but they aren’t helping me sleep much.

One advantage to sleeping less is I’m getting more done.  I’m spending more time outside.   I’m able to do laundry more often.  I’m keeping less clutter around my apartment.  Some of my habits have improved as I’m drinking more water and bathing twice a day now.  I have always liked taking a hot bath right before bed.  It helps me relax.  And I think I’ve lost a few pounds in the last couple weeks because I’m more active.

I still sleep some in the overnight hours.  I just usually don’t stay asleep for more than two hours at a time.  Since I keep my windows open most of the time anymore, I can hear the birds singing in the early morning hours when I would have been sound asleep in the winter months.

As much as I enjoy being able to get more done and having more energy, I am concerned about the changes in my sleep patterns.  I have traditionally had problems after major changes in sleep patterns.  This concerns me as springs and early summers have traditionally been my happiest times of year.  Spring has always been a favorite season of mine.  I just hope that if any problems do come up because of this insomnia I’ll be able to handle them without having a blow up on my family or friends.

Spring Routines

I’m glad that spring is finally back.  I’ve been getting outside a little more often, I’m keeping my place a little cleaner, I’m watching baseball most nights, and I’m even eating less too.  I’m still not as physically active as I would like but I think it’s starting to come back.  After my car accident in October 2015 I gained back most of the weight I had lost in the previous two years.  I think I’m finally back on the right track.  Since I still don’t have a great deal of stamina yet, I’m cutting back on calories as much as I can.  This means I’m giving up most sugar and eating meat only once a day.  I am also doing my best to avoid fried foods.  After several weeks of eating less than usual, I think I’m in a new routine.  I can’t even eat as much as I could last summer.  One of my problems was, after my accident, I got depressed and lost much of my confidence.  From there I just got lazy and ate a lot.  I have made efforts over the last several weeks to break out of this vicious cycle.  And I think I’m starting to see results.

I’ve also noticed my habits are getting better too.  During the winter I had gotten kind of lazy about shaving and cleaning up as there were entire days I didn’t leave my apartment complex.  I’m back into good habits like these again.  I would hate to think I let my personal appearance slide just because I was depressed by lousy weather.  But mental illness can do odd things to a person.

I’m starting to socialize some again.  Not so much with my neighbors as I am family and old friends.  I still don’t enjoy the fact that many of my neighbors are grumpy and irritable most of the time.  I have been around that kind of negativity for years and I don’t want it dragging me down.  I spent enough of my life being depressed, irritable, and a pessimist.  I just don’t want that anymore.

Middle of the Night Ramblings

In addition to a change in the seasons, my routines have been changing too.  I now stay up well into the night but I am sleeping less.  I normally buy groceries in the early morning hours to avoid crowds but I have switched to shopping in the overnight hours.  I have also found good deals on perfectly good but day old deli items this way.  I think people would be sick if we truly knew how much food we in the developed world let go to waste.

Since I’m staying awake later I’m now reading more online articles and getting my youtube fix in the overnight hours too.  I don’t mind the solitude of the overnight hours.  Sometimes, thanks to Facebook, I can strike up short conversations with people from other parts of the world due to groups I’m involved with.  While we in the U.S. are asleep, much of the world is wide awake.  When my cousin lived in Japan, there was a fourteen hour difference between us.  I’d chat with her at 10pm my time and she’d be at noon over in Japan.

I don’t mind the overnight hours.  It gives me more time to read and write.  I sometimes get interrupted during the day hours by phone calls and people knocking on my door.  I normally don’t welcome interruptions, at least not initially.  If it turns out the interruption is a good one, like a phone call from my parents or college friends, I’ll be glad it happened.  I had one such interruption yesterday.  I was taking a nap over the noon hour and my dad called.  Had a good conversation with him.  I welcome such interruptions.  But if it’s someone trying to sell me something, I’ll usually either not answer or just hang up.  I feel bad about just hanging up on people but it’s more polite than yelling at them.

I’m still getting used to being up much of the night and sleeping during the morning hours.  But as backwards as keeping night hours is, it is better than when I was sleeping twelve hours a day during the winter months.  Overall, I have felt quite stable the last several months.  I still have my moments of anxiety and paranoia induced anger, but fortunately I haven’t acted on such impulses for a long time.  I did have a flare up in early February and one last October.  As intense as those were, they lasted only a couple hours.  I just hope I never have problems like those in public.  Most people still don’t understand mental illness or have empathy for it.  Seems to me that mentally ill people are among the last groups of people in society it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against.  But if other groups of people can break down barriers and be more socially accepted, then so can the mentally ill.

Adapting to Mental Illness and Better Coping

Little by little I’m getting into spring.  I’m starting to spend more time outdoors and I have had my windows open every night for the last several days.  I’m starting to feel like I have more energy.  I’m also sleeping less.  I’m staying awake later now but still keeping occupied.  I’m beginning to socialize more in person again.

Mentally I occasionally have had flare ups the last couple weeks.  Usually these don’t last very long.  Fortunately I don’t act out on these feelings of frustration and paranoia.  I have gotten to where I can feel bad and have bad days but not have complete breakdowns.  It has been this way for the last two months.  It is a confidence boost knowing that I can have a bad day and yet not act out on it.

Things are greening up in my hometown.  The weather is getting nicer with each passing day.  I’ll probably start going to the park again in a few days.  I’m getting to where I want to be outside again.  I have spent a little time outside everyday for the last few days.

Even though I occasionally have feelings of irritability and frustration and paranoia, I have learned to better cope with them.  If at all possible I just let them pass.  I no longer feel guilt for having feelings like this.  One of the things that helps me live better with mental illness is that I don’t have to feel bad for having rough patches.  I really don’t have to feel bad unless I act out in public or become destructive.  It took me a long time to come to this realization.  I don’t have to feel bad for having bad days.  I don’t have to feel bad to have moments of weakness.  I can’t always be at the top of everything at all times. And neither can any nuerotypical person.  And I no longer feel guilt about having moments of weaknesses.  That has helped considerably as I have worked with the mental illness over the course of my life.