Letting Go

It has been said, I think it was in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’, that “in order to move forward, you have to leave the past behind” or something along the same idea.  I admit to having problems with letting go of what happened in my younger years, especially during times when my mental illness flares up especially bad.  During such times I have a very hard time coming to accept that my life did not turn out how I remotely imagined it would when I was sixteen and looking ahead to the vast expanse of years that was ahead.  At that age, I pictured that I would be doing something in medical research and married with at least a couple of children and living in some large metroplex by the time I turned 35.  Like many intelligent kids that could be classified as somewhat ‘nerdy’, I dreamed of the day I would move out of my hometown of less than 500 people and onto bigger and better things.  Like most of the few close friends I had, I so desperately wanted out of Nebraska.  I figured there was nothing here for me in the science and medicine fields and I would be wasting my life if I stayed behind.  Well, time has a way of making fools of even the smartest of us.

I never left Nebraska while all the friends from high school I stayed in contact with did.  In fact, none of the friends I made in college stayed in state either.  I didn’t end up working in any scientific or medical field for even one day of my life.  I certainly never got married or had kids.  I never even worked in a job that would require me to graduate high school for any real length of time, and I essentially failed at those jobs.  In spite of my illness, I retained almost all of my natural intelligence even though now my ability to work under stress and read anyone ‘between the lines’ was completely gone.  Any of these instances, let alone all of these put together, were serious blows to my pride and ego.

For the first several years of my mental illness, I agonized over where I went wrong.  I retained my natural intelligence yet I couldn’t do well in even minimum wage work.  It was baffling to my caseworkers at Vocational Rehab that I was so smart yet couldn’t handle any real stress.  For a long time, I thought I just wasn’t working hard enough and that work was supposed to suck.  I had spent my entire life hearing adults complain about their jobs as if their misery was something they took pride in.  So I just tried harder and attempted to abandon any idea that I was supposed to enjoy work or even life for that matter.  In time I came to believe I was doomed to be a failure at working a regular job.

For the next couple of years, I threw myself into my writing.  I was working part time at the courthouse as a janitor by this time.  I came to believe that the only way I could ‘make something of myself’ was to write a decent selling book.  I knew that the odds were against me as less than one percent of even published writers would make above poverty level if they relied solely on their writing work.  Well, that didn’t work either.  I self published a couple books of poetry, a book about my experiences as a mentally ill person in a ‘chronically sane world’, and even wrote rough drafts for two novels.  Found out the hard way that I have almost no talent for writing fiction.  I don’t even like reading fiction, especially modern fiction.  Even though I sold a few dozen copies of my mental illness book, the others didn’t sell at all.  So for a few years after that, I felt like a failure as a writer.

Now that the traditional writer door had been rudely slammed in my face, I became very depressed and angry.  I couldn’t understand what was the point of retaining my intelligence and not being able to use my abilities to even support myself, let alone help others.  I couldn’t figure any of this out.  I just couldn’t let go of what this illness cost me.  Occasionally I still find myself angry over what I lost.  I had the example of what I could have, and should have, been in the person of my older brother.  He is currently working as an electrical engineer for a defense contractor, making more money per year in his mid 30s than my parents ever made at any point in their careers, living in a excellent neighborhood in a metroplex outside of our home state, married to an intelligent woman (who also is an engineer), and has four children that he’s absolutely devoted to.

I suppose it’s wrong to be envious of him, though a part of me sometimes is.  I know as kids, I actually got better grades in school and read more books than he did.  When I’m in the grips of my mental illness, I often find myself thinking our lives could have been similar.  When I’m seriously in the grips of the illness and feeling nothing but anger and hostility, I find myself thinking our lives could have been easily reversed with me doing the work of my dreams and him being mentally ill.  Fortunately that doesn’t happen often.

When I’m not caught in the grasp of the illness, I find it very easy to let go of my past and move forward.  I have found an outlet of sorts though blogging.  Sure I don’t have thousands of visitors every day like some blogs here on wordpress.  No I’m not known outside of my family, my current hometown, my handful of friends, and people who follow and/or happen to stumble on these writings.  No, I haven’t made even one cent off these writings on this blog.  Sure, I’m dependent on the government for my medications and even my living.  Yet, when I am doing well, I have completely accepted all the aspects of my mental illness and have moved forward.  It is now only the small minority of times when I’m in the grips of the illness that I have to worry about stumbling and dwelling on everything that has happened over the last twenty years.

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Working With Mental Illness

Being on Social Security Disability Insurance at the age of 37 was not the path in life I hoped for.  Like most people I was raised to respect and honor the value of paid employment.  During the summers I mowed lawns, worked on my uncle’s farm, and occasionally delivered newspapers even in grade school.  I accepted my first “real job” working as a cook at McDonalds the summer before my junior year of high school.  My brother had worked there for a few years so they hired me.  I was fired a few weeks later because I couldn’t work fast enough to satisfy their needs.  I was even yelled at by the owner my first day on the job because I wasn’t working fast enough.  That was my introduction to the work world.

Over the course of the next several years I worked in retail stores and went to school.  By this time my mental illness was taking effect.  Some days I’d get panic attacks so bad I’d vomit before I went into work.  I was on edge at work except for when I was working alone or in a small group.  I just couldn’t work with the public without feeling terrible anxiety.  Because of this anxiety I would frequently make mistakes at my jobs and get yelled at by coworkers and customers.  This only made the anxiety worse as the months and years went by.  Not being able to deal with the public essentially killed any chance I had at a career as most jobs are now service related.  I really had no aptitude for working with my hands so I never considered trade school.

When I was twenty five, after I washed out of the masters’ program in college, I got a job working in a factory.  It was simple enough work that I didn’t really have to think about it.  But it was an overnight shift job and over the course of several weeks I couldn’t adapt to sleeping in the day.  Within a few weeks my work was suffering because I couldn’t sleep.  Once again problems with coworkers rose up.  One night when I made a mistake one of my coworkers threatened to kill me.  I made up an excuse that I was sick and walked off the job that night.  I never reported the incident because I feared management wouldn’t take me seriously.  It has been my experience over the course of most of my life that no one took my problems seriously.  To this day I still don’t talk about my problems until they become major issues.

I actually liked what I was doing at the factory.  I even liked when I was doing janitorial work for the county government.  In my county job I worked alone for the first two and a half years I was there.  And I loved it.  I could do my work, not deal with coworker drama, and I had my weekends off.  It was the perfect job for me.  But I was too good at that job.  I got promoted, moved to the courthouse, and was on a staff of a handful of janitors.  It went well for awhile until we hired some people who didn’t want to do good work and wanted to start drama.  I never understood why people always wanted to start drama at a job.  We were there to accomplish a job and make money, nothing more and nothing less.  But some people just aren’t content unless they are causing problems for others.  My coworkers at the factory got on me because my work was suffering because I couldn’t sleep well during the day.  My request to go to day shift was denied so I quit.  I could already feel mental health problems building and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had a full breakdown.  As it was a few months later I went to the mental hospital.

My only real complaints about work was dealing with the drama of coworkers and dealing with customers who thought they could treat me like dirt because I was making minimum wage.  It must make some people feel important treating small people poorly.  I wouldn’t know.  I could do just fine when I was working alone and only had to see my boss once or twice a day.  As long as the work was done I had no complaints or issues.  For me working alone is the best kind of job.  I think it runs in my family.  My father was self employed, one grandfather was a farmer and another was self employed.  I just hate dealing with office politics and needless drama.  And of course those are the staples of most modern workplaces.  I couldn’t figure it out.  But then I never could figure out why normal people act the way they do.  I can’t figure out why it’s too tough for some of you to just attempt to put differences aside and compromise.  I certainly can’t figure out why my culture praises ignorance and belligerence.  I am not ignorant and I have never respected ignorant people.  And I never will.

If I were to ever get back into the workplace it would be where I worked alone and didn’t deal with other people’s drama.  I could see doing a work from home job over telecommuting.  I have a friend and a cousin who do such work already.  Many office jobs can already be done this way even today.  But I know that some people don’t want to give up the office environment or give that much freedom to their workers.  Personally I’d love to telecommute.  I never understood the appeal of fighting traffic everyday to deal with people whose motives I can only guess just to do a job and get paid.  I know in the past I have said I never want to work again.  I should say that I don’t want to do any type of the work I have done in the past.  I don’t want to work retail and deal with unruly coworkers and customers.  I don’t want to work in an office and fight office politics.  I don’t want to work in manufacturing that is set up to wash out people who don’t toe the line exactly.  But that’s what my experience is in, even though I was never good at it.  I probably couldn’t make a career out of any of these jobs because many of those jobs are going to get automated within the next ten to twenty years.  My only real possibility of returning to work is doing alone work that allows me to use creativity, kind of like what I do with this blog.  Maybe I should become a professional ghost writer.

I Want To Shake Things Up and Get More Active Again

whybenormal

My back has healed up.  I’m back to essentially a more normal routine.  Because of the colder weather and being housebound for two weeks, I got to do some thinking about changing things in my life.  I have essentially been in a rut for the last couple years where it’s pretty much the same old every day, day in and day out.  I haven’t done any real traveling for almost three years, spending much of my time self educating via youtube and Khan Academy and reading books.  I gained back the weight I lost within two years of my car accident back in 2015.  Now I’m getting more serious about my health again.  I don’t eat fast food anymore.  I’m starting to get out of my apartment more and walk a little every day.  I do arm weights three times a week.  And about the only things I drink anymore are water and coffee.  I feel like I’m beginning to see some results.  I started this new routine shortly after New Year’s.  Because my back slowed me down for two weeks, I just cut back on what I ate.  I’m to where I now eat meat only once a day, usually for breakfast.  The rest of the meals I eat things like spinach leaf salads, soups, peanut butter, and meatless pasta.  I think my routines are starting to work.  I feel like I have more energy.  I feel more mobile.  I’m starting to have fewer aches and pains.  And I am sleeping better too.

I’m also thinking that after I have lost some weight, I’m going to have to get out and about more.  I am in desperate need of shaking up my routines and adding more spice to my life.  A few years ago I said that I would like to do some traveling eventually.  I still have my savings that I built up a few years ago.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to see my old college friends again.  I don’t have a definite time line set just yet as this is still in the dreaming before making plans phase.  I have always wanted to get my passport and travel through Europe and see places like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, London, etc.  Part of me would, if I get back to the same weight I was in college, love to travel on some of the old Silk Road from eastern Europe to China or vice versa.  When I was in high school I spent a couple weeks in Mexico with my Spanish class.  It was the most enjoyable vacation I had in my entire life.  Now that I am an adult, debt free, committed to getting back into good physical health, and have a little bit of a savings, I’m going to have to do this traveling before I get too old to enjoy it.  Since I am single, have a safety net in my disability pension, and I can do my blog from anywhere that has WiFi internet, I’m starting to hear the faint beckoning call of the open road again.

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I did a little traveling every year.  My senior year of college, my parents and I went to San Antonio for Christmas.  I got to see The Riverwalk lit up for Christmas, visited the Alamo, got to see one of the Air Force bases my dad was stationed at during the Vietnam War, and got to see my Nebraska Huskers play a post season bowl game.  And an old college friend and I used to go to Denver to see Colorado Rockies baseball games, one of those games being a World Series game.  Spent all winter paying off the cost of that quick weekend trip, and even though the Rockies lost the Series, it was worth the trip.  I visited an old college friend in Minnesota for a week several summers ago.  I was amazed at how beautiful Minnesota is (I wouldn’t care to fight their winters). My friends and I used to go to minor league baseball games every summer.  We were able to get front row seats, a couple hot dogs, and a couple soda pops for less than $25 a person.  Just thinking about these old times while I was house bound for the last two weeks got me to realize just how much I missed travel and seeing different places.

I know that before I can fulfill these dreams of traveling, I have to lose some weight.  I have done it before.  And by God I can do it again.  I know it’s going to take at least a few years before I can get to doing the travel overseas like I dream of doing.  But I have pretty much gotten to where I have played all the computer games and done most of the self study I care to do.  I took a couple years doing that and I have gotten it out of my system.  Now it is time for a different chapter in my life.  It’s time to lose some weight and prepare to hit the road again.

Late January and Winter Routine

I weathered yet another snow storm this winter.  Fortunately this one is starting to melt off already after only a couple days.  If I wait long enough, maybe I won’t have to shovel the snow off my car 🙂  Been staying close to home and generally getting less than I would like accomplished.  If I haven’t written as much the last month it’s only because I have less to report than usual.  We’ve had a couple new people move into our complex.  So far they seem to be working out.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown since before Christmas and I haven’t had house guests since our family’s Christmas party.

My back seems to be doing better.  I can walk further distances but not as far as I would like.  I’m still lifting arm weights to make up the difference.  I’ve been sleeping more.  I am convinced this is due to cutting out caffeine for the last few days.  I haven’t gotten jittery and irritable from withdraw, at least not yet.  I’m probably going to get out and buy some coffee within the next day or two once all the ice is melted.  We’ve had snow cover for over a month now.  And usually here in Nebraska winters are bitterly cold but dry.

One month of winter has come and gone.  And I really don’t feel like I got much accomplished from all of my indoor time.  I do go see my psych doctor early in February. I guess I really don’t have much to report to him besides being more or less stable though a little paranoid around people.  But even that paranoia has been lessening within the last few days.  I don’t foresee any medication changes coming in the near future.

It’s been a quiet and uneventful winter for me so far.  But I am beginning to look forward to spring.  Just another two months to go.

Measuring Up

Not much has happened in the last few days.  We’re bracing for a snow storm to come in over the next couple days.  I’m still sleeping in my recliner as I’m still nursing my bad back.  Mentally I guess I have been okay even with fighting off the occasional bouts of boredom and anxiety.  I still feel kind of paranoid about people in general.  Since I have pretty good hearing, I can hear everything that goes on in the hallway outside of my apartment.  I don’t like unanticipated visitors as I have always been paranoid about that. I enjoy visiting people, but I can’t stand someone coming over unannounced when I am already self conscious about myself and my place.  My entire life I have had a fear that I don’t measure up in anything and that nothing I do will be good enough.  And since I’ve been fired from a few jobs in the past for things I didn’t know I was doing wrong and have lost friendships over people being annoyed with me being eccentric, many of my paranoias have been confirmed.  At least they are confirmed in my diseased mind but probably not in anyone else’s.  And since I don’t have the ability to read people very well, socializing has become a nightmare I would rather avoid.

Pessimism and Optimism

Haven’t been outside of my neighborhood for almost two weeks now, mainly because of the bitter cold, snow, and ice.  I haven’t even gone outside this week because it’s been so cold.  Hopefully it doesn’t stay this bad all winter because I’m beginning to get kind of tired of being housebound all the time.  And I don’t think I’m the only one.  Seems to me that even my family are starting to get short tempered and irritable over the cold weather.  My neighbors are getting short tempered too.  And of course the people on social media have been short tempered and joyless ever since social media was opened to the public at large.  At this point I’m not sure I want to stay in touch with anyone besides family and a few close friends.  It just seems that humans get some kind of sadistic joy out of being angry all the time.  Personally I’m burned out on all the anger and pessimism.  Have been for a long time.

I almost never heard anything good about my fellow man or the world in general from my teachers and elders while in school or even in college.  I had one teacher in junior high who seemed to get joy out of ranting about how the “cold cruel world” was going to kick our thirteen year old butts.  And of course I rarely heard anything good about people in general from the news stations or even church service.  After observing these happenings until I was in my mid twenties, I started taking notice of what was actually happening compared to what I was being told by my elders and bosses.  After the economic crisis of 2008 and hearing that civilization was fixing to collapse any day, I payed attention and took notes.  Of course it didn’t happen and the people who stayed in the stock market and didn’t panic are now making major money.  That is when I came to the conclusion that the crowd is usually wrong. The whole ‘wisdom of crowds’ usually comes to nothing or mob mentality.  The world didn’t end with Y2K, or 9/11, or the housing bust of 2008, or the Mayan calendar of 2012, or when the conservatives were in power, or when the liberals were in power, or when social media became a festering cesspool for people to gladly wallow in negativity and pessimism.  After years of hearing that the world was going to end any day now and that younger people (or older people depending on who you ask) would be the death of us all, that’s when I had enough.  Enough is enough.  I have had it with fear mongering and pessimism about things that never come to pass or turn out to me more manageable than we previously thought.

Many worries are much to do about nothing and come to nothing.  And everything else seems to be more manageable than previously thought.  If our species can survive world wars, crippling famines, plagues that kill off millions of people, ice ages, tyrants, incompetent leaders, and even science used for evil purposes, some people can survive just about anything barring a comet hitting our planet or the sun going out.  I probably wouldn’t survive most major events, primarily because of my mental illness and declining physical health as I age.  But it’s okay as far as I’m concerned.

I can say that I have lived a pretty good life considering the circumstances of having a mental illness my entire adulthood.  I have a good relationship with all my family members, I got to know my nephews and niece, I got to know quite a bit of my family history, and preserve it, before my grandparents died, I have cool friends who are willing to at least put up with my eccentric behavior and mental breakdowns, I haven’t been to jail or homeless, the longest I spent in a mental hospital was one week (and I have been working with a mental illness since age seventeen), and until recently was in good physical health in spite of fighting weight problems.  When I was a teenager I was able to go scuba diving and climb an Aztec pyramid when I visited Mexico.  In my early thirties I could walk five miles a day easily in spite weighing over 300 pounds.  I got to hike and camp in the mountains of Colorado.  I got to see B.B. King preform live a couple years before he died.  I got to see country music acts like Brad Paisley, Reba Macintyre, Sarah Evans, etc. preform live before they became big stars.  I have been able to live on my own with a mental illness for almost fifteen years.  And I got to learn about some of the cool things that science and tech are doing that will be coming to fruition within the next ten to twenty years.  My only true regret is that I might not live long enough to see some of the really cool things coming, like colonies on the moon or the first people on Mars or life extension tech or nuclear fusion plants.  But I am convinced that such things are coming in most people’s lifetimes.  And I am not an optimist by nature.  I had to force myself to become this way until eventually it became second nature.

Homebound in Winter

Been several days since I have been out of my neighborhood.  We’ve had a lot of snow and cold weather.  It has been a colder than usual January for sure.  Since I have been sitting tight and not really going anywhere, I have been living off my own cooking for almost two weeks.  Good thing I’m a decent cook.

As it is, I’m going to eventually have to get out of my neighborhood and pick up more supplies.  I’m not really looking forward to it.  As much as I enjoy the long nights and quiet of winter, I definitely don’t like winter travel.

I have been feeling mentally stable even with the lack of activity.  Fortunately I can still socialize with friends and family.  My back has all but healed up.  It took a week of sleeping in recliners but I think I’m doing better in that regard.  I’ve gotten used to sleeping in recliners so I think I’ll do this for the foreseeable future.

Haven’t been watching news or much for other tv lately.  The only things I have been watching lately are youtube shows and live sports.  And that is about all.  Been focusing more on my computer games like Civilization and Skyrim.  Unfortunately both game types can be kind of addicting and pass the time real fast.  But with the flu and other sickness going around bad this winter, it’s probably not a bad idea to stay away from people unless necessary.

We’re now three weeks into winter.  It feels longer than that.  Maybe because I haven’t been outside of town since before Christmas.  Been housebound for much of this time.  It sometimes gets kind of boring.  I feel like I should be doing more outside, at least until I look out my window and see all the snow and ice.  It feels daunting that we have at least another two months of this left.  I’m looking forward to spring.

Dealing With Paranoia and Shame

Even though I have been feeling quite stable overall, I have very little desire to leave my apartment complex except when necessary.  I am still a little paranoid about people I meet in public.  And I am somewhat that way about people within my own complex.  It’s sad to say, but I think I have developed a phobia of people in general.  I really don’t interact with anyone in person unless necessary.  Anymore I prefer to communicate by phone or social media rather than in person.  I didn’t used to be like this.  But anymore I am paranoid and scared to venture out in public, sometimes leading me to neglecting to run errands unless absolutely vital.  Anymore when I do leave my apartment complex, it’s usually at night so I don’t have to deal with crowds or strangers.  I’m even starting to become afraid of the people in my complex.  I am scared that many people in my complex don’t like me.  I suspect some of the elderly residents don’t like younger people on disability living in here.  But I hope that’s my paranoia being in high gear and nothing more.

My illness has changed over the course of the years.  I can more easily deal with the delusional thoughts, hallucinations, and anger.  But dealing with the paranoia and problems socializing have gotten slightly worse.  Anymore I desire to be alone most of the time.  Most people I don’t want to socialize with.  And it’s often because I am afraid of them. My fear stems from not being able to read unspoken cues and body language.  I also have no concept of how to deal with office politics and the nonsense social games that many normals seem to fair well under.  I don’t understand office politics. And it has cost me several jobs over the years.  I have no desire to “man up” and go back to a regular job mainly because of office politics.  Personally, I hope that automation takes a lot of these jobs and people will have to find other ways to define themselves besides job titles and money.  I had to once it became painfully obvious that my hopes of a career were killed by my mental illness.  Adaptation is the best strategy in living rather than holding on to a past that isn’t coming back.  I’m not going to regain my ability to work a forty hour a week job and I have accepted that.  And I no longer feel shame when anyone tells me I’m making my problems up or that I’m not worthy of living because I don’t have some remedial and repetitive job that will probably be taken over by machines in not too many years.  I know what I have been thorough and have dealt with.  No one else has.  So these people can condemn all they want, but their condemnations mean nothing to me.

Recovering From Back Pain

I’ve been limiting my physical activity for the last three days because of my ailing back.  I’m sleeping in a recliner again.  That seems to ease the pain as does taking ibuprofen and warm showers every morning.  Since the weather is turning cold and snowy again, it looks like I’ll be homebound for the next few days even with my back feeling better.  Mentally I’m still stable.  I think keeping in daily contact with friends and family helps me stay stable during these times when I’m not able to do much physically.  I think a few more days of rest and ibuprofen and I should be alright.  I think I’m going to sleep in my chair for the foreseeable future.  I think sleeping on my back isn’t helping my back.  And my back has been messed up on and off since my car accident two years ago.  If this doesn’t clear up within a few days, I’ll have to suck it up and go back to the chiropractor.  That helped the last time my back was messed up.

 

Chronic Back Pain with Schizophrenia

In my part of the country, the weather is warming up enough to get rid of the ice and snow we’ve had since before Christmas.  It is a welcome relief that I can leave my complex without too many problems.  Got out and about a few times this weekend.  I ran a few errands, so I am set for the next couple weeks.  I still don’t socialize as much as I would like because the paranoia still remains.  Sometimes it was strong enough I would go entire days without leaving my apartment.  Physically, I’m having back problems again.  I can’t stand for more than ten minutes at a time without lower back and upper leg pain.  I can still get around if I walk for ten minutes, take ten minutes to sit, and repeat.  But this isn’t practical when navigating out in public.  I’ll have to go back to the chiropractor or some other doctor to see what I can do about my failing back.  I’ve been fighting back problems on and off since my car accident in 2015.  I imagine I’ll be fighting it for the rest of my life from now one.  It’s a pity that I start falling apart physically right at the time when I start figuring things out mentally.  At this point I wouldn’t mind just being a head in a jar attached to a machine body, like in Futurama 🙂

With my back being messed up, I am more house bound than I would like.  I miss the things I was able to do even just a few years ago that, due to my bad back, I can’t do anymore.  I miss walks in the park, I miss going swimming, I especially miss not worrying if sitting on a hard chair will mess me up.  I even have a hard time getting in and out of my car anymore because of back pains.  So I don’t drive unless it’s necessary now. I am now starting to see what I get to look forward as a senior citizen.  Golden years, yeah right.

The positive side to having such limiting back pain is mentally I am still stable.  I have remained stable for months.  In the past, physical pain and illnesses have made my mental health worse.  It doesn’t seem to anymore.  Maybe as I become an old man I have learned to cope with the hangups and stresses of mental illness better.  I do miss having a good strong back.