Dealing With Self Doubt

There are times when I am in the grip of a mental illness flareup that I fear that I make no difference.  I sometimes fear I make no difference in anything I do.  I fear I make no difference to my friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc.  I certainly fear that I make no difference with this blog even though I’ve poured my heart, soul, and life into it for years.

One of the things that makes me doubt myself and fear I don’t make a difference is that I constantly repeat myself.  As much as I repeat myself, especially when trying to share some positive news of what is going right, I get convinced my words and actions fall on only deaf ears and blind eyes.  I get burned out on telling people what is actually going right and that most of the doom and gloom that is the accepted spirit of our times are really temporary setbacks and not the end of the cosmos.  But no one outside of a handful of people are listening and what I say means nothing.  At least that is the impression my disease infested mind keeps giving.

Most times I can’t read a person or what they are thinking at any given moment.  I can’t easily gage the moment the moment thoughts even if I can easily trace long term trends and possibilities.  I suppose it’s similar to a military general who isn’t good at winning individual battles yet ends up winning an entire war simply because they are excellent long term planners.  Even as a child I was a much better long term thinker than I was on a short term.  And it used to irritate my friends, teachers, bosses, and parents real bad.  Anytime I tired to explain that they were sweating the small things while losing sight of the entire picture, well I was condemned for having problems with authority and being a hopeless dreamer.  Very few appreciated the fact that I was a long term thinker outside of a few cool teachers, my two best friends in high school, and my grandparents.

Of course this learned apprehension about not making any difference, at least not short term, has been made even worse by the mental illness.  I try my best to remind myself that I am making a difference and I am making people think and question why the status quo is the way it is.  And when I am not in the grips of the illness I know I am.  Sadly, when the illness wins out, I seriously doubt my own abilities and if I am making a difference.  I suppose it’s like a rapid version of the change of seasons or even high tide and low tide.  The human mind is that powerful in that it can make false or distorted perceptions into an individual’s reality.  We think, therefore we are I suppose.

I try telling people about the struggles involved in mental illness.  But during moments of weakness I fear I make no difference.  I know it’s not considered manly to express or feel fear or express and feel anything for that matter.  But I no longer care about the expectations of others.  Haven’t since I figured out at age seventeen that nothing I did would be considered good enough for some people.  Some people will never be satisfied with what I do simply because that is the way they are.  Such people are lost causes not worth even talking to or thinking about as far as I am concerned.  I deal with such people only when absolutely unavoidable.

I try telling people about the advances in science, tech, humanitarian efforts, etc.  But it makes no difference to most people.  I remember a line in The Matrix were an AI named Agent Smith stated to the effect that humans find definition and meaning in misery and suffering and are incapable of accepting happiness and peace.  I find this to be true in many of my day to day interactions with others, even with close friends and family.  I hope it’s the blinders cast by the illness that makes me think this way.  I really do.  Maybe we vastly overestimate how much can be done on the short term but vastly underestimate the changes that can be done medium to long term.

Perhaps that is why the days at a dead end job or raising small children drag on forever but the years and decades pass rapidly.  One day you’re 27 years old and get a bad annual review and a demotion from your boss or your two year old is screaming like he’s demon possessed because you won’t buy him a candy bar in the Wal Mart check out.  Those days feel like a torment right out of Dante’s Inferno.  But, wake up and you’re in your fifties and you’re the boss giving out bad annual reviews or you’re an elderly man on your death bed looking out at four generations of offspring from your marriage and feeling kind of bittersweet for not taking more time to appreciate your kids when they were asking endless questions or for foregoing summer vacations and weekends to work a thankless job that, not only didn’t miss you when you retired or got laid off, but can probably be done by a machine or algorithm better and cheaper.

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who never could imagine a world where their labor or delusional self importance wasn’t needed.  We are living in that said world.  Billions of dead people who couldn’t imagine a world as it is now and getting along just fine without them.  Our descendants will live in such a world that won’t remember us for what work we did or what stupid arguments we were part of or anything for that matter.  Because of genealogy, some people might get their names remembered for centuries.  But no one will remember or care what they believed, how they worked, how they treated their kids and spouse, how they voted, etc.

Rather than being saddened by this fact of life, I am actually encouraged by it.  I don’t have to save the world by myself.  I am not the center of the cosmos (thank God).  I am not responsible for the short sightedness and ignorance of others, only my own.  And I needlessly worry about how others live their lives, especially if it doesn’t directly harm me or those I care about.  I am not a superhero who has to save the world.  I’m essentially an independent scholar with numerous interests trying to encourage those I encounter in this adventure we call life.  Yet, because of my illness, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that I am just one man among billions of humans and that I don’t have to win all battles or save the cosmos on my own.

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Nostalgia: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Been spending most of my time alone the last several days.  And I’m actually quite happy with this arrangement.  And why not?  Most of my friends are going through the mid life crisis deals as my friends are in the mid thirties to early forties range.  I have a college friend who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago who’s only a year or two older than I am.  Most of my friends are struggling with debts and dead end careers, so they are constantly on edge about money.  I’ve had friends suffer through divorces.  I have a cousin whose son was diagnosed on the autism scale last year.  My best friend from my teenage years lost her mother to cancer two years ago.  Even in myself I don’t have as much get up and go as I did even three years ago.  But I am in my late 30s.  I’ll be 40 next summer yet I don’t dread it.  I don’t dread aging as much as most of my friends.  Most people think I’m weird  or lying when I say I actually look forward to being a wise elder.  I’m not lying or weird.  I’m just ahead of the curve and no longer fearing the inevitable.

I admit I don’t have much nostalgia.  I don’t long for the “good ol’ days” because, well, the good old days kinda sucked in many ways.  When exactly were the good old days?  Was it back in the 1990s when President Clinton was screwing his interns, computers occupied entire desks instead of fitting in shirt pockets, and the music of Tupac and Marilyn Manson were going to be the death of Western Civilization?  Was it back in the 1950s when using the n word was okay but Lucille Ball couldn’t say pregnant on network television and the threat of nuclear war was real?  “Better dead than red” people said back in those days.  And people were worried about the corrupting influence of rock and roll music.  Or was it in the Old West when boom towns like Dodge City and Tombstone were far more violent and lawless than any modern slum, women couldn’t vote, and bounty hunters got paid for Native American scalps?  Or was it in the Stone Age when everyone ate fresh and natural food, drank clean water, breathed unpolluted air, had no laws, no villages, half of children died before adulthood, and writing didn’t exist.  Even the 2010s will be considered the good old days in twenty years by nostalgic fools.  Nostalgia is a desert mirage.  It is imagined.  It isn’t real.  I haven’t fallen victim to nostalgia even though I’m on the door step of 40.  Hopefully I never fall victim to nostalgia.

I definitely never want to be one of these bitter and angry old men who complain about the kids.  Let’s get some thing real clear: every generation of “lousy kids” was supposed to be the death of civilization.  And it never happened.  If anything, most generations built upon what previous generations did and left science and humanitarian efforts further along than when they started.  I have zero patience for people who complain about young people.  Elders were complaining about how stupid and incompetent my classmates and myself were even when were in grade school in the 1980s.  I have never forgotten how hurtful and unfair that was.  I never will.  And for that reason I will never pull that kind of crap on people younger than me.  And it burns me to see people my age complaining about the kids coming up now.  The kids are not more unruly or weaker now than in the past.  The only thing kids have ever been guilty of is making old codgers realize that they will someday become irrelevant, they will someday die, and they will someday be forgotten.  Kids make old people uncomfortable because kids make elders confront their own hypocrisy, stupidity, and that they were too scared or lazy to try to chase their dreams.

I’m now seeing many of my cohorts becoming bitter and resentful about the bad decisions they made in their teens and twenties.  You should have left that dead end job and started your own business or moved to a different city.  Yeah, you should have majored in STEM or went to trade school instead of majoring in humanities or general business.  Maybe  you should have paid off your credit cards before they become unmanageable.  You shouldn’t have spent your teens and twenties partying, drugging, and having sex like there would be no price to pay.  You shouldn’t have put up with abusive boyfriends or manipulative girlfriends.  You should have called your mom more often.  Yeah, you shouldn’t have cut ties with your siblings.  You should have road tripped and traveled to foreign countries while you still had good health.  You should have gone to seen your favorite musician the night they performed in your hometown.  You shouldn’t have ignored that geeky girl or boy in your high school history class in favor of the school bully or queen bee.  I could go on.  But there are no do overs.  Learn and move on.  Quit romanticizing a past that never existed.  Learn from your bad decisions and be glad for the good decisions you did make.

Things I Am Grateful For

I know I have been more short tempered and irritable than usual lately.  But even with the attacks of anxiety and irritability I’ve been having lately (along with my strong desire to just stay home and sleep) I am still grateful for many things.  I thought I would publish a list of what I am thankful for, if for no other reason, even mental illness allows me to see the good in things at times.  So here goes

 

Things I am grateful for

 

Being Alive

Being Able to Read and Write

Having Access to History’s Knowledge and Wisdom via the Internet

Science

The Bill of Rights

People Who Attempt to Right the Wrongs of Life

Bacon and Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Buffalo Chicken

Red Seedless Grapes

Quirky Friends

Rain Storms (minus the floods and hail)

Friendship (or the family I’m not blood relation to as I call it)

Indoor Plumbing

Hot Baths

Soap (vastly underrated as far as I’m concerned)

Home Delivery Services

Problem Solvers

Modern Medicine

The Ability to Socialize Without Leaving the Comfort of My House via communications tech

The Ability to Drive A Car But Living in a Time and Place Where I Don’t Have To As Much as even Five Years Ago

Velvetta Cheese

Greek Yogurt (I’m especially keen on Honey and Vanilla flavors)

Watching College Football on Chilly Fall Afternoons

Watching Baseball on Warm Sumer evenings

Getting Out of College Debt Free

Knowing That Sometimes It’s Okay To Take The Loss And Regroup (had to do this when I applied for disability once it became clear I couldn’t support myself by a job because of the illness)

The sci fi stories of Issac Asimov

The horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft

The Cosmos Series (both the Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson versions)

Watching Science and Tech talks on Youtube

My tech enthusiasts groups on Facebook

The friends I had in high school I still have twenty years after graduation.

The friends I had in college I still have fifteen years after graduation.

Being Able to Ask For Help and The Realizations That It Doesn’t Make Me Incompetent or Unmanly to Do So

Seeing Things I Hoped and Worked For Come Into Being

I Can Live Healthier, Better Informed, Better Educated, Better Fed, etc. than even the Kings of the Renaissance and the Industrial Magnates of one hundred years ago (yet still be considered below the poverty line by 2019 standards)

People Solving Problems Even If We Don’t Hear About It

The Unsung Heroes (doctors, nurses, craftspeople, emergency personnel, good mothers and fathers, good kids who may not be straight A students or star athletes or high achievers,  artists who make good work but are never known beyond friends and family, self employed business people who provide valuable service to their neighborhoods but never make it ‘wealthy’, etc.)

Vacuum Cleaners

Small Changes Can Make A Large Difference Given Enough Time

 

These are just some I could mention just here and now.  This is not intended to be a complete list.  It’s important to remember some perspective sometimes when we get too deep into the day to day struggles that we forget what has already been achieved and won.

Improvements and Accepting New Realities

Been sleeping more the last several days than usual.  I had been gone weeks where I slept no more than 3 hours at a time.  Now I’ve been sleeping longer but I don’t wake up as stiff and sore.  Maybe the weight lifting and healthier diet are beginning to pay off.

Overall, I feel decent physically.  I have fewer unexplainable aches and pains and I get better quality sleep than was my normal the last several weeks.  I changed my diet too.  I no longer drink soda pop, not even diet.  I eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  I occasionally go meatless for a day or two to give my guts a rest.  I lift weights three times a week.  I don’t sleep in my recliner as much these days.  Overall, as the weather has warmed up I have started feeling better physically.

Mentally I’m doing better.  I still occasionally have issues with irritability and depression.  Fortunately they usually pass after a few minutes of ranting to myself.  I still don’t socialize much, as I am still a little paranoid about dealing with rude and angry people.  During the winter, there were days it was bad enough I didn’t even want to socialize with anyone even online or over the phone.  I don’t call my family as often anymore.  But when I do, the conversations usually last longer and go more in depth.  I still call my parents at least once a week.

I’ve been enjoying the warmer days.  I have my windows open most of the time now, except when it rains or we have bad winds.  I leave my drapes open except for when I sleep.  I don’t watch much for tv anymore, haven’t since New Year’s.  I spend much of my free time reading, watching educational videos, listening to audiobooks, messing with my computer, and participating in my tech enthusiasts’ groups on social media.  I don’t socialize with even close friends as much as I normally do.  I still drop in on them every few days.  But it seems like most of my friends have just been having problems lately, whether with work or relationships.  Since most of my friends are in the age range of mid 30s to early 40s, I imagine many are going through mid life problems now.  I have so far managed to avoid the mid life crisis.  I had my crises in my mid to late twenties.  It was in the 2004 to 2008 years that I painfully had to realize my schizophrenia and anxiety would never allow me to hold a long term job, get married, have children, have any kind of prestige, or any kind of money.

At one time, namely 2006, I had the goal of finding my niche and being off disability before 2015.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Here it is in 2019 and I am still on disability.  But I have come to acceptance in that regard.  I had to change a lot of priorities and completely reexamine everything I was taught and believed over the years.  I came to realize that people are defined by their careers only because they allow themselves to be.  We were brainwashed since childhood to believe a human’s worth was in what they did to earn money.  I had to find out the painful way that there is far more to living and life than earning money and working.  It was only then I came to realize the obvious: the most important and influential work in the world is not paid or even respected by many people.  That work is, of course, being a parent.  The second most important job in the world is being a friend and support to other people.  I will never get to be a father, but I can be a friend and support person with the best of them.  And this is alright with me.

Even though I will probably never have much for money or any kind of prestige or be in any kind of romantic relationship, I am alright with all of this.  I made my peace with this several years ago.  Having a mental illness made me face my limitations and accept that I had to adapt.  I will never become the scientist I wanted to be as a child, but I am alright with that.  I have found my niche as a blogger, friend, support person, and confidant.

Asking ‘Why’ and Not Caring About Popular Opinions

I readily admit that I am anything but normal.  I wasn’t normal even before I became mentally ill.  One thing that definitely makes me abnormal is that I have to always ask questions.  I just have to know why things work or don’t work the way that they do.  I imagine in some aspects I’m the six year kid who asks ‘why’ to everything as a thirty eight year old adult.  I found people were annoyed at me as a six year old when I kept asking questions and they are even more annoyed that as a man entering my middle aged years I still ask ‘why’ to everything.

I never understood why people got angry when I asked questions.  When I don’t ask questions is when I don’t learn.  When I don’t learn I make mistakes in my school work, my job, my relationships, my dating life, etc.  And then people get angry because I didn’t ask questions.  I think this is strange at best and mind numbingly stupid at worst.  Do you want people to learn or not?  If yes, then how are they supposed to learn if they aren’t free to ask questions?  I guess that asking questions means you have ‘attitude problems’ or ‘don’t respect authority’ to some people.  I don’t understand this.

I don’t even understand people who don’t question much of anything.  Are they that compliant?  Do they not have any sense of wonder or curiosity?  And furthermore, why do such people feel a visceral need to condemn those of us who are asking questions and looking for ways to improve any and all things.  I have never taken authority as unquestionable truth.  And I never will at this point.  I was always told ‘get with the program’ or ‘wait until you’re an adult’ or ‘wait until you hit the cold cruel world’ when I was asking “too many” questions or trying to ignore things that made no sense.  Well, I am an adult who still isn’t with the program and I still ask questions and have a burning desire to learn.  The cold and cruel world has hit me more than it has some people, and the only time I am not an optimist is when I’m in the deep grips of the illness.  In short, I proved my critics and elders dead wrong.  I didn’t make their mistakes.  And I am a more interesting man and better conversation than they themselves could ever be.  It’s because I didn’t quit asking.  I didn’t quit seeking.  I didn’t quit experimenting.  I didn’t let my curiosity and sense of wonder be murdered by the short sighted demands and duties of adulthood.  My soul didn’t die in a job I hated that I did just to pay rent and buy food.  I didn’t become a bitter and angry old man because I had a few failed relationships and never got married.  I didn’t start condemning the “damn kids” when I became a man.  I remembered what it was like to be condemned as one of the “damn kids” as a teenager even though I was more ethical and had better morals than most of my elders and elected rulers.  It sucked.  I haven’t forgotten that even after all these years.  I never will forget.  I vowed when I was eighteen that I would never pull that on anyone.

I will continue to evolve and ask questions no matter how old I get.  I refuse, flat out refuse, to be one of these bitter old codgers screaming at the kids on his lawn and pining for good old days that were quite lousy in many ways for many people.  I don’t even see owning a lawn as an old man even if I do get rich.  Jack Kerouac once said if you need to own a welcome mat, then you own too much.  I don’t know if I’d go that extreme but I did like Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club’ saying “The things you own eventually own you” and “once you’ve lost everything, you’re free to do anything.”  I don’t know about that extreme either, but for my own personal experiences I have lost most of what modern society deems the hallmarks of decent living.  I lost my career because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance to ever become rich because of mental illness.  I lost most of my physical health because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance for marriage, relationships, sexual intimacy, children because mental illness made me impossible to live with.  I even lost my ability to drive a car in high traffic areas because of mental illness.  Most of my countrymen would think I am a complete loser just because of these measures and stats on paper.  But, with mental illness and entering old age, I have learned that I don’t have to care what others think any more.  As a result, I don’t care what others think.  I don’t want to impress people.  I don’t really care if I am liked.  I don’t even care if people believe me anymore.  I have found that usually when people think I’m lying the most is exactly when I’m telling the most truth.  That, and I’m just ahead of the curve.  I don’t care to stop asking why.  Not now, not ever.  I also no longer feel a visceral need to impress anyone.  I will continue to ask why until I die.  And I don’t care who likes or dislikes me in the process.

Random Thought on an idle Friday afternoon

With it being a Friday, I am reminded of posts by friends of how much they love weekends and how much they hate their jobs. Maybe I got lucky by having a severe mental illness and being on disability. Perhaps I did, especially with how much I read about how people hate their jobs and their spouses. I also probably got lucky in that becoming disabled made me not marriage material. Yet, as it were, losing everything civilization told me to value made me fearless and optimistic. Once you lose everything, you are free to do anything it seems.

Having Access to The World Without Leaving Home or Wearing Pants and Shoes

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My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids.  They seem to be adapting to suburb life well.  They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services.  And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard.  Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks.  But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at.  I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs.  I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself.  It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.

Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years.  I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice.  They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church.  My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s.  He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma.  I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.

I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away.  But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to.  I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now.  I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door.  Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too.  As I always had odd sizes.  Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny.  Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.

If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning.  I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer.  He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.

And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting.  I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off.  I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose.  The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine.  I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room.  I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT.  I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.

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Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers.  With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City.  Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find.  As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war.  I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.

Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past.  Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore.  There was an old song about having the world on a string.  I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet.  I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to.  I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.

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Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors.  But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born.  All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000.  Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time.  Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago.  I have hope.  Everyone else should too.