Starting To Feel Better After A Rugged Patch

While it has been a rough last several days for myself I think I’m beginning to pull out of it.  To help myself pull out I’ve been going to bed earlier, limiting myself to only one cup of coffee per day, avoiding foods that are tough on my stomach, trying to avoid less than positive people and news stories.  As much research as I do online for the blog and my own intellectual nourishment, it can be a steep climb.  Fortunately I’m getting back to where if I see a news story or a friend’s posting that irritates me I’ll be fine after a couple minutes of silent contemplation.  I also spend more time meditating too.  I usually have a couple times per day I just lay in bed with my cpap and just pay attention to my breathing.  It seems like the best way to do meditation, at least for myself, is to not concern myself with whether I’m doing it right.  It’s trying to reduce stress and calm down, not building a steel bridge.  There probably isn’t one right way to do it for everyone.  I don’t even really think of it as traditional meditation or prayer that much, I just look at it as decluttering my mind or taking out my mental garbage.

I am sorry for the blow ups I had over the last week.  I wish I could find a more constructive and less threatening way to let go of my fears and anxiety.  Yet I do know it could be worse.  I could just have just as easily turned to alcohol, narcotics, gambling, arguing with complete strangers, etc.  But in all my years with dealing with schizophrenia I have never laid a hand on anyone, no matter how bad it got.  Hopefully I never go down that dark route.

During this time of increased distress for myself I am grateful to family and friends who haven’t given up on me.  I know I can be real difficult to deal with some times.  Hopefully that is all the illness and that I’m not a malicious man by nature.  I have some friends who also deal with depression and anxiety issues.  I also have friends stressed real bad over debts and stagnating careers.  Right now for many things feel hopeless.  It is easy for anger and depression to come into play in these cases.

I’m feeling more upbeat than I have in a while.  My parents will be in town today.  Hopefully they can help me get some things straightened out I have let slide over the last few months.  I’m happy to be getting company.  I don’t get company much anymore.  Maybe moving to be near my brother and his family would be best for me.  I do feel kind of apprehensive about the move as my brother and I have never gotten along.  We are just complete opposites I guess.  And my diseased mind makes it real tough to let go of the past sometimes.  Having a near photographic memory doesn’t make things any better.  But I just can’t do this life thing alone anymore.

Rant About Jobs and Finding Meaning

I would welcome a cure to my schizophrenia but I have had bad enough experiences with work place environments that I never want to hold another job again.  I used to vomit from anxiety probably 50 percent of the time when I went into work customer service jobs.  The only job I didn’t do this was my janitor job.  But then, I didn’t work around crowds and I had to see my boss only once a day.  Yet, good luck finding a job that doesn’t involve working with crowds or office politics nonsense even with a college degree.

I would be completely content to be where I had to be around the same group of people day after day and only rarely interact with others outside my work team.  Almost no jobs like that exist anymore.  A significant number of jobs will likely be taken over by machines within the next ten to fifteen years. I have tried to tell people this for several years now.  But almost no one listens or if they do they tell me I am a liar.  The future is coming my friends.  These jobs, at least the ones we fight over now, will be going away.  And there isn’t anything even populist politicians or professional Luddites can do to stop it.  Sure, they can delay the inevitable.  But it will only put their individual businesses and nations at a competitive disadvantage and make the transition to a largely automated economy a lot tougher than it has to be.

Some people think I’m crazy or hopeless dreamer or a liar when I tell them this.  I am not stupid.  I am just ahead of the curve.  And being forced out of the workforce because of my schizophrenia meant that I was forced to find a different way to define myself than what I did for money.  But, in many ways, I am thankful I was forced to redefine myself at age 25 as opposed to age 45 with a family and a mortgage.  I went through my identity crisis when I was still young, flexible, and physically healthy.  It would be much tougher now that I’m 39 years old if I got laid off from a job because a machine can do it faster and more precise than I ever could.  The future is happening.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.  Changes are coming hard and fast in the next ten to twenty years, even more so than they are now.  It is time to stop denying it and adapt.

Losing Friends and Mental Breakdowns or I’m Sorry For Having Feelings

Haven’t been writing lately.  Been having a rough go the last several days.  Finally had a breakdown a few days ago and a second one just yesterday.  I still feel like I’m putting the pieces back together.  I hate that I have breakdowns.  Unfortunately, it seems the only way I can let go of much of the pain and depression that comes with my mental illness.

I get that it’s not socially acceptable for me to rant and rave as a way of dealing with my mental illness.  But it is also unmanly for me to cry or even show any sign of weakness.  I can’t even cry at this point in my life.  I haven’t broke down and cried in over fifteen years.  I didn’t cry at any of my grandparents funerals or even my nephew’s funeral.  I guess after years of being told to ‘man up’, ‘straighten up’, ‘snap out of it’, ‘what you whining for’, and ‘I’ll give you something to cry about’ I am literally unable to express sadness.  It’s not manly to cry so I don’t.  Yet I put off expressing any distress as long as I can because it’s not socially acceptable to rave and verbally express anger.  Of course this is a vicious cycle that has become predictable to me.  I only fear that someday when I’m having a breakdown at home, my neighbors will call the cops on me and I’ll lose my apartment.  And having a breakdown in public would be even worse, knowing my countrymen’s attitudes towards carrying concealed firearms and violence.  I fear for my own life anymore.  I can’t vent about my problems in a cathartic way for fear of repercussions and even physical violence against myself.  And if I were to get shot by anyone, my side of the story would never be heard by anyone, not even my family.  Hell, the person that shoots me will be hailed as a hero even though I am never armed.  Tell me again how we are a compassionate and civilized society.

It’s because of fears and anxieties like this I almost never leave my home.  I still sleep a lot but some days that’s all I want to do.  I want the fear and pain to go away.  I want to stop living in fear of my neighbors and people I talk to online.  I even fear my relatives anymore.  I haven’t gone to family reunions in several years for fear of having a breakdown in case the conversations turn to controversial things.  I have ended contact with a significant portion of extended family members because of their hateful attitudes about politics, science, and religion.  I haven’t even spoken to my own brother in over two years.  It seems like I do better with complete strangers I meet only online than I do with most of my old friends and family.  About the only people I hear from on a regular basis I have known for more than five years are my parents, my best friend from high school, and my best friend from college.  I ended the friendship with my second best friend from college because of his attitudes towards politics and religion.  I asked him to tone it down, at least online, he told me to stop being triggered and he didn’t care what I wanted.  So I ended the friendship.  Angers me that most people care far more about politics and religion and money than they ever did even their best friends and family.

I really don’t know why I put myself out there like this.  It only makes me look weak and needy.  But I am burned out from always having to be on guard even around those I love.  I am tired of losing friends and family members.  Even before the whole world decided to go insane all at once I had troubles making friends.  I didn’t have the same interests as most people and I find it impossible to dumb down for most people.  I have to vent, even if no one in my friends and family has any empathy.  I have to for my own sanity.

Worries About My Friends and Our Near Term Future

I worry sometimes.  Namely I worry about my friends and people younger than I am in general.  I worry about most of my friends struggling in life.  Most of my friends are buried in debts, mostly student loans, that they will be lucky if they ever pay off.  And most of my friends weren’t that dumb with their money or life decisions.  Most of my friends went to college because 1) we were told that was a path to a decent career and 2) we looked around and saw that there were no jobs that paid decently requiring only a high school degree.  Long gone are the days when someone could get a job as a factory hand or farm worker in their early twenties and hold onto that job for over forty years and retire with a paid off home, pension, and health insurance.

I’m seeing my friends struggle in their day to day lives.  Most are working a full time job and a part time job or a side gig.  Almost none of them own houses.  The only one of my close friends who owns a house is a high school teacher in a small town.  And he didn’t buy his house until he was in his late 30s.  They don’t own houses simply because they can’t afford a house and student debts.  I also have friends who have had medical emergencies.  One friend had to file for bankruptcy for medical bills.  One friend is fighting cancer, divorced, lost her children, and is still on the waiting list for disability.  Another friend of mine got a master’s degree only to find the best job she could get in a mid sized city doesn’t pay even 40 grand a year.  Her husband also works a low paying job and moonlights as an Uber driver.  He too has lots of student debt.

Now I know some unsympathetic people will be thinking, “well, that’s what they get for not majoring in STEM or going to the military.”  Well, one of my brother’s best friends pulled straight 4.0 all the way through high school and college and still got rejected for a state medical school at least three times before he was accepted.  As far as I know, he now has a decent career working in a medical lab.  Another of my brother’s friends didn’t finish medical school and residencies until he was in his thirties because of finances and run around from the schools.  Now he works as an emergency search and rescue doctor.  One of my cousins went to trade school for two years to become an electrician.  He worked for a couple railroads, got married, has four kids, and owns a small acreage in rural Nebraska.  But, he is now essentially self employed due to the inconsistent nature of railroad employment and his wife has had medical problems to where I think she had to give up her job as a nurse’s aide.  Another cousin works in web development.  Even though he has had to work for several different firms and sometimes take free lance work, he is doing alright because he has skills that are in demand.  At least for the time being.

Can we really expect most people to become doctors, nurses, webpage designers, computer coders, engineers, tradesmen, etc?  Yet that is all I hear out of “experts” and “business leaders.”  While I think it admirable that people like Mike Rowe want to encourage more people to consider the trades like plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, etc, I fear that too much emphasis on the trades will eventually lead the same problem that people who majored in business, law, humanities, liberal arts, etc. are facing now.  Twenty years ago, we were told to go to college and get a degree.  Many of us did only to find that every kid in the developed world was given that advice.  Now the degree doesn’t go nearly as far as it did even forty years ago, primarily because of so many people having degrees.  Then the kids were told “get a masters” or “do unpaid internships”.  Many did only to find that they had six figures in student loans to qualify for jobs that will never pay enough to pay off the loans, let alone pay off a house or even start a family in some cases.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if young people or my friends are angry about this setup.  Because while some jobs have been outsourced to cheaper places, many more were taken over by automation.  I have a friend who works in a call center for a bank.  I fear it’s only a matter of time before his job gets automated.  And, of course, no one in power cares about the twenty and thirty somethings struggling.  They didn’t even care about the  forty something auto or steel workers who lost their jobs to machines and outsourcing.

And it’s no longer just the US or Europe that is outsourcing and automating jobs.  Even China is automating and outsourcing.  Just a few weeks ago I bought some shirts online that were made in a small African country I had to look up on a map.  The US and Europe are just further along in this transition to a highly automated economy.

And of course, the US doesn’t have very good social safety nets or any empathy for those who lost their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet.  My elders like to brag about how well America is doing, how well we take care of our own, and how we are a great Christian nation.  If we cared about our own, than we wouldn’t be having an opioid crisis, mass shootings every day, increasing rates of mental illness, increased suicide rates (especially among middle aged men), and protests in every major city on a daily basis.  For our boasting about being such a Christian nation, we certainly don’t care about those who are misfortunate and had a rough go. Such hypocrisy.

I have no idea how many times I was told “get a job you bum”, “man up”, or “McDonalds and Wal Mart are hiring”.  I, and millions of people in my age bracket and lower did everything we were told.  We still struggle.  And we don’t have any empathy from anyone, not our rulers, not our businesses, not our parents, not our schools, not our churches, and not even from each other.

Unionizing is not an option like it was a hundred years ago because most jobs can or will be outsourced or taken over by machines.  Sure we are on the road to an automated economy where most of the grunt work is done by machines and computers.  But, what is the point if 1) we don’t ditch this idea that everyone has to be defined by what they do for money, 2) most people can’t afford anything beyond the basics because most jobs are done by machines, 3) we have few social safety nets to make up for the fact that most people aren’t able to work in fields that can’t be easily automated.

We may need some things like universal health care, universal basic income, free continuing education, complete overhauls of tax systems, and a general overall shift in public attitudes towards work and compassion for others.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not in the US.  I don’t think it will happen in the US in my lifetime simply because most of my countrymen don’t have empathy. Our leaders certainly don’t.

I do believe if our species can survive this transition, which is probably the greatest transition since people settled down and started farming instead of hunting, fishing, and gathering thousands of years ago, our descendants can have a really cool future where creativity and science can bloom.  But, I fear the transition will be a lot tougher than it has to be simply because of many people’s attitudes towards work and their fellow man.  I fear we will lose a few generations and much of their gifts in this transition.  But I guess we as a species lost short term to ultimately be better off when the Industrial Revolution began back in the late 1700s.  I do have great hope for the long term outlook for civilization and our species, but I fear it will be brutal getting there.  And the fact that I won’t live long enough to see the fruits of the seeds being planted today fills me with great sadness.

My Online Confessions

I’m going off subject for this article.  It has been too long since I wrote a just for fun piece.  For this one, I’m going to disclose some facts about myself.  Some will be funny, some may be unpopular, but all of them are true.  So here goes:

  1. My three favorite hobbies are computer games, writing, and weight lifting.
  2. I love nonfiction science books.
  3. I can’t stand dystopic novels or movies (which, unfortunately, is most of tv in recent years).
  4. My favorite pizza toppings are pepperoni and Italian sausage
  5. I can’t stand most fast food.  I haven’t even had a Big Mac in over two years
  6. I get very irritated when people ask me “when are you getting married?”  Sometimes I want to retort to them, especially if they are older than I am, “when are you going to die?”
  7. I don’t like watching sports as much now as I did when I was in my teens and twenties.  But I do mainly so I can have something to talk about with family and friends.
  8. I can’t stand most cable news channels.  I like some business news channels, namely Bloomberg, because they report on things like science and tech breakthroughs more than politics and disaster.
  9. I don’t tolerate rudeness from others in my online interactions.  And I never give second chances to people I don’t personally know.  No exceptions.
  10. I often go out of my way to defend younger people, especially college age and those just starting out in adulthood.  I remember how bad it hurt being stereotyped as a “damn kid” even when I was in grade school.  When I was a teenager I promised myself I would never put anyone else through what I was forced to endure.  Certainly makes me unpopular with my elders and even people my own age.
  11. I don’t understand why it’s popular to be dumb.  Never have and never will.
  12. I don’t understand why it’s evil to be smart.  Never have and never will.
  13. When I write, I find writing in the first person point of view far easier than third person.  Always have.  My best material has always been with myself serving as the narrator.  Even most of my early poems and novel rough drafts were in the first person.
  14. I once had an outline for a science fiction series of novels.  It was mainly about humanity several thousand years with various human settlements declaring independence from an interstellar empire.  Pretty much think Star Trek, Dune, and a touch of the American Civil War.  Sadly I no longer have those notes.
  15. I once had the goal of becoming a best selling writer where half of all my writing and speaking profits would go to philanthropy, namely mental illness research and to the college I graduated from.
  16. High school was some of the toughest years of my life.
  17. College was one of the few places I felt that I wasn’t a complete outcast.  It was one of the only places I met people more eccentric than I am.  I loved college.  Kind of too bad I can’t live in a communal type setting with other researchers, academics, and eccentrics.
  18. One of the few parts I don’t like about being an adult is how tough it is just to spend time with friends.
  19. One thing I absolutely love about being an adult is that I don’t have to act like I care what other people think about me, at least as long as I’m not breaking the law.
  20. I don’t understand the whole ‘Oh God It’s Monday’ and the ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ nonsense.  I never thought it was funny.  Never will.
  21. I don’t understand why it’s funny to hate your in laws or argue with your spouse.  My two best friends I’ve known both for over twenty years.  I can count the number of major arguments I’ve had with the two combined on less than five fingers.  And it certainly doesn’t make our friendships sterile or lifeless or meaningless.  The only time I argue with my parents is during psychotic breakdowns, usually only a couple times per year.
  22. I absolutely despise the phrase “man up.”  I think it’s possibly the stupidest phrase in the English language.  I have never heard anyone tell a woman to “woman up” or an old grandfather to “young down.”  I don’t even hear adults tell kids to “grow up” very often.
  23. I get irritated when I present facts and statistics in a discussion only to be blown off or told I am a lair.
  24. My favorite ice cream is vanilla, simply because it goes good with most toppings and favorings.  It mixes with almost anything.
  25. I like poetry, particularly poems about war, struggle, and overcoming challenges.
  26. I don’t understand why many people can’t see that mental health problems are real.  I mean, the human brain is the most intricate and complex piece of machinery we know about.  Yet, too many people act like nothing can go wrong with it.  Shows a lack of critical thinking on many people’s part.
  27. I am extremely distressed by most education systems not teaching kids how to critically think or be adaptable.  We have known our schools weren’t adapting to the challenges kids would face as adults as far back as the 1980s (at least).  Yet we still teach our kids in 2019 like it was 1919.  I am convinced that is why so many people are anxious and depressed about their lives as adults, simply because they weren’t taught how to adapt to the current realities.  In short, we train kids and teenagers for a local and stable world only to dump them out in a global and rapidly changing world in their early twenties.  And then we have the gall to wonder why they are anxious and struggling in their lives.  We trained them for a world that no longer exists, often to the tune of many thousands of dollars in student debts that will take most of a career to pay off.  If that isn’t child abuse, then nothing is.
  28. I am sometimes lonely.  But I don’t socialize because I don’t want to hear my family and friends endlessly complain.  About the only people in my life who don’t unload their problems on me are my two best friends and my mother.  And it weighs on me and can cause me to be resentful.
  29. I hate being told I’m lucky.  I hate it almost as much as I do being told to “man up.”
  30. I don’t understand why the only manliness most people respect comes out things like war and violence.  Personally, I think Einstein and Newton were every bit as manly as George Patton and Napoleon.  Why is being a thinker considered a sign of weakness?  Hell, if it weren’t for thinkers, there would be no civilization and humanity would probably be extinct.  Think about that the next time you condemn someone for resorting to their brains before their fists or guns.
  31. I don’t understand zero sum thinking.  The idea that someone has to lose for me to gain a benefit is a load of crap.
  32. Don’t discuss politics with me.  Ever.
  33. I have never thought having lots of sex makes a man manly or a woman immoral.  Some people just like sex more than others.
  34. I have lost more jobs and friendships than I can remember because I never gave up on trying to think for myself.  Found out the hard way the world doesn’t respect original thinkers, at least not before they make major breakthroughs.
  35. I am convinced societies love their living tyrants but condemn their living benefactors only to reverse it once their children become the leaders of society.  So maybe there is a sense of justice, even if it’s only in history books and the minds of future generations.
  36. I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories. But I do believe that just enough of them have just enough truth to them to make the entire subject a dark, addictive, and dangerous one.
  37. I believe we live in one of the coolest times in human history, at least as long as you don’t watch the news channels.  News channels report only negative news precisely because that is what we are hard wired to pay attention to.  Good news sites fail, not because they are “fake news”, but because no one pays attention.
  38. I believe we as a human society can solve our problems (or at least adapt so to minimize the impact) and have a really cool future that we, even in 2019, will be jealous of.

Aches, Winter, Losing Friends, and Stress

Been having bad knee pains the last few days.  My mobility is more limited than usual.  So I’ve been putting ice on my knee and taking it easy since this weekend.  Sometimes I’m glad I don’t have to work a regular job and not just because of my mental illness.

Getting ready for winter, at least I was until my knee started acting up.  Stocking up on canned food and peanut butter.  So glad I don’t have food allergies as peanut butter is good and cheap emergency food that can keep for quite awhile.  Bought a fleece blanket in addition to the blankets I already have.  Been spending most of my evenings under a blanket and reading.  I’m still lifting weights three times a week.  Been doing this since the spring.  I’m pretty sure I’ve lost weight but I don’t know how much.  I know I’m down one size in clothing all around since the spring and I recover from aches and pains faster.  The worst time for aches is right after I wake up in the mornings.  Fortunately hot baths usually cure those.

My sleep patterns have changed, again.  I usually go to bed around 11pm, wake up at 3 am and rattle around for a couple hours.  Then I go back to sleep around 5 am and sleep until about 8 am.  I don’t nap as much in the afternoons, usually only a couple times a week.  My sleep patterns change with how my illness affects me.  I usually sleep more when I’m distressed and having more frequent flare ups.

Fortunately haven’t had much for serious long lasting flare ups since this summer.  I still get some a few times a week.  Lots of caffeine can make these worse.  So can socializing with rude and irritable people.  Been avoiding people in person as much as possible lately.  It just seems like people are more irritable and on edge than usual lately.  I even avoid talking with some friends because it seems like they just want to do nothing but complain anymore.  I’m sorry, but I have enough problems of my own and I’m not always stable.  I avoid friends sometimes because I’m fearful of having flare ups and melt downs on them.  I fear jeopardizing the friendship because I can’t process stress and negative vibes very well anymore.  I’ve already lost a few friendships over the last few years because I can’t process negativity well.  I don’t want to lose anymore.

Anger and Grief while Mentally Ill

Still going quite stable overall.  I still have minor flare ups a few times a week, usually they are triggered by stress or moments of excessive irritability.  Fortunately they don’t usually last more than a few minutes.  Most times I can burn them out through a few minutes of ranting to my self.  Sometimes I’ll verbalize my rants but keep my voice quiet enough so I can barely hear myself.  I don’t want to scare my neighbors and cause trouble.  So far it has worked.  I did have a real bad flare up in late August, which I regret.  The older I get, the more regretful I am of my taking my problems out on others.

While I am grateful that my friends and family don’t make issues out of my problems (at least not to me), I feel bad anyway.  I feel like I’m abusing my position as a friend and family member.  I think it would probably be easier for them to deal with if I just broke down and cried during my real bad flare ups rather than lash out at family and friends.  But most times, even when I feel really sad, I can’t bring myself to break down and sob.  I sometimes do tear up, especially when listening to really emotional instrumental music pieces (such as theme songs to some of my favorite war movies like Braveheart, the Civil War documentary series, and We Were Soldiers).  But I haven’t just broke down and sobbed since I was in college.  Sure I was sad at my grandparents’ funerals, but I wasn’t distraught.  Instead I had a stronger sense of being happy that such honorable people lived and had a sense of duty that it was on us who were going on into the future to continue the work of generosity, fairness, decency, and honor.  I just hope I can be an honorable and decent person to those I come into contact with on a daily basis, whether in person or online.