December 14, 2018

Another week has come and gone.  Besides seeing my psych doctor I haven’t been out too much.  But it looks like our cold spell is over and it’s supposed to more bearable for the next several days.  Our snow and is ice is melted.  So getting around town is easier now.  I spent an entire week without driving because of the snow and ice early this month.  I was starting to feel kind of confined and needing to get out.  Even I have times I just need to leave my fortress.

Been chatting with friends over facebook more lately.  Made some new friends in my techie groups and kept in contact with friends and family.  For awhile I was getting discouraged that I wasn’t hearing from my friends and family as often as I would like.  But then, I wasn’t posting on my personal site much besides promoting my blog.  Socializing is much like investing; no deposits, no returns.

Haven’t been reading much besides online articles and blogs lately.  The thing is I read as much, or even more, than I have in years past.  But I don’t read much for hardback print books.  The things I enjoy reading about now are science, tech, geopolitical, and medical news articles and essays.  Haven’t even listened to long audio books for weeks.

Sleep patterns have changed too, this time for the better.  Most nights I go to sleep around nine or ten pm and wake up for good at four or five am.  I still get my handful of quiet hours, I just get them in the early morning rather than the middle of the night.  Been this way for a few weeks now.  And it seems it takes more to make me irritable and paranoid ever since my sleep patterns changed.

Still haven’t made any concrete plans for Christmas.  I may go to my parents’ new house in Oklahoma.  But weather can be so unpredictable and dangerous for travel this time of year in my part of the country.  I guess I don’t have any gift wishes this year.  The PlayStation 5 won’t come out until next year at the earliest.  I would like a new gaming console as the one I have is several years old and showing it’s age.  One of my nephews recently bought a VR headset after saving his chore and odd job money for months.  Personally, I’m waiting a few years until the quality improves and the prices drop at least 50 percent from what they are now.  One thing about information and computer tech, the first versions are usually expensive and clunky (think cell phones from the 1980s or televisions from the 1950s), and after a few revisions they become inexpensive and every one has them.  My cell phone is a $99 Wal Mart special smart phone.  Yet, as far as computing power goes, it’s far better than the $2000 desk top computer I got for college back in 1999.  Too bad the costs for things like housing, automobiles, and education didn’t drop with time like computer tech.

As it is, I’m enjoying this holiday season.  The college bowl games start tomorrow, so there will be games on almost every day until New Year’s.  That’s what I’ll be doing for awhile.

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How Facebook Saved My Social Life

 

I have to admit that I am grateful for social media outlets like facebook and even twitter. Made some new friends through these even if I will never meet these people in person.  For the first few years of being active on social media, I felt some sadness in finding out that there were lots of people scattered all over the world who shared my passions, interests, and mental pursuits but none of them lived within driving distance of me.  My closest friends to me now live in Omaha.  Most of my really good confidants live out of state.  And many of my newer friends live in other countries.  It is bittersweet in knowing that I am not as abnormal or damaged as I feared in my younger years.  Besides the few years I was in college, I have never fit in with the people I lived near.  There’s nothing bad or good in that either way, it just is a fact.  It has caused me much grief over the years knowing that I would never have the same interests or pursuits as most people nearing in my hometown or even my own family.  I didn’t have many friends as a kid, but that forced me to develop my own interests and ways of keeping myself occupied.  Had I been Mr. Popular in my teenage years, I may have never developed my mental muscles to the extent that I did.  I certainly wouldn’t be as self reliant or resourceful or resilient.  All of these attributes have helped me immensely in my life as a mentally ill man.

As an adult, I have been able to expand my social circles even though I don’t have a regular job.  This is because of facebook and twitter.  Sure I have had to deal with jerks and irritable people online.  But at least online, I have the unfollow and block buttons.  I don’t have such near God like powers in person.  If I have nosy neighbors or annoying people I see everyday, I just have to deal with it and smile.  If someone is giving me static online, I send them to the unfollow and block list.  It’s my personal version of digital purgatory I suppose.  Facebook has actually made me more social than I was as a child before internet.  It has also shown me that I am not the only person out there who feels isolated and alone because he/she doesn’t conform to the norms of his location.  And now that I have filtered out the garbage that can come through social media, it is a social bonanza for me that I have never experienced in the real world.  It’s rather amazing.

 

Arm Chair Philosophy During Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving week by myself.  I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents.  I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone.  I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college.  I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.

This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone.  Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on.  I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school.  It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after.  I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment.  Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state.  But I have a few weeks to figure that out.  It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere.  This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.

Starting to sleep less again.  But I’m not staying up all night either.  I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am.  I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours.  I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am.  I have been feeling quite stable lately too.  I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown.  First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.

In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much.  I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time.  Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone.  I don’t like socializing in person much anymore.  I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness.  I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.

Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest.  I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both.  I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting.  I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished.  I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver.  It’s like I expect things to not work anymore.  I’m probably suffering from apathy too.  I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore.  I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.

I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work.  I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names.  I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore.  I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before.  But nothing changes for the better.  The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts.  Yet no one wants to talk about these.  But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion.  I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.

For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren.  Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did.  I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum?  There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.

I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore.  Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else.  They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses.  But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife.  Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries.  Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later.  Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.

Early Thanksgiving and Changes

Hosted my parents for an early Thanksgiving celebration last Sunday.  They brought the food and I provided the place.  They spent most of the day here.  I also received a stationary exercise bike from them.  Since they are moving to a suburb and are getting rid of some of the things they have no need for now, I got an exercise bike and a couple desk chairs from them.  Used the exercise bike a few times already.  It’s good to be exercising regularly again.  I had fallen out of the daily exercise habit after my back started flaring up a few months ago.  I was pleasantly surprised that peddling on a stationary bike doesn’t hurt my back like walking does.  Used to be most of my exercise was walking in the park or old downtown.  I would usually walk the hallways in my apartment complex when it was too icy or cold to walk outside.  But I’m starting to feel more decent after only a few days of regular exercise again.

While I enjoyed hosting my parents for Thanksgiving, it was also a bittersweet gathering.  That was the last time I get to see them when they are living nearby.  Even as much as I don’t like driving, I could still get in my car and be at their house in less than two hours.  But now that they are moving I won’t be getting to see them on a whim.  At least until I find a low income place that’s not in a tough neighborhood.  I may have to find a place in a small town nearby if the places in the city and the suburbs are too questionable.  I have been lucky to have had the good luck with low income housing that I have experienced in the last twelve years.  I’ve been fortunate to have good managers who will quickly and decisively deal with people who don’t pay the rent or are troublemakers.  I don’t have any true complaints about my complex.  I can be left alone when I want to be.  I can socialize when I want to.  And most people don’t give me problems and I try to avoid being a problem for others.  It’s seemed to work or I wouldn’t still be here after twelve years.  The only place I’ve lived in longer than my current apartment is my childhood home.

I haven’t bee out much for the last few days.  I guess I’m still adapting to my parents moving to be near my brother and his family.  I hope to be joining them eventually.  But right now I probably won’t be making any moves, at least not until the end of winter.

Helping Friends Through Depression and Burnout While Having a Mental Illness Myself

Other than my parents I haven’t been socializing much lately.  Seems that many of my friends are more depressed and anxious than usual.  Normally I would be annoyed and irritated by people just being in rude and obnoxious moods while I would be sympathetic to those who were depressed and anxious.  I try to connect with these friends but I can’t tell that I’m getting through to them.  Sometimes I feel as though I’m wasting my breath and that my friends really don’t want my company.

Hopefully this is just the illness part of my mind speaking.  But it does concern me that so many of my friends are having issues with depression and burnout.  It didn’t use to be this way.  It use to be that I was the one with the depression and burnout and my friends were the ones doing alright.  Now the tables are turned.  I can tell my friends and family who were probably annoyed with my depression and hangups in my younger years that I appreciate your efforts to keep me in the loop.  I especially appreciate you inviting me to functions that I probably wouldn’t just show up to on my own.  I may secretly begrudge social activities at first but once things get started I’m glad I participated.  But your efforts to include me and encourage me did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  I may not say it often enough, but I do appreciate my family and friends.  I may not keep in contact as much as I would like.  In some cases, I imagine my friends may be annoyed by how much I try to stay in contact.  But I don’t have many options for decent socializing.

I appreciate my friends and family.   I hurt for them when they are suffering and struggling.  Such is the price of being naturally empathic in a time and place that doesn’t value empathy and connection.  But it is kind of strange helping my friends out with their depression and stress issues now.  I imagine that since many of my friends are in their late 30s and early 40s, this is prime years for the mid life crisis.  I guess I had my major crisis in my teens and twenties while my peers were getting started in their careers and still dating and thinking about marriage.  It’s now my turn to be the support system to those who need it.  I want to believe that my empathy and support of my friends in their struggles is appreciated.  I want to believe that the fears that say my friends would rather I go away are just my illness creeping back in, and I do think that it is.  But there are the moments of weakness still.

Thoughts on Mental Illness Treatment Side Effects

I’ve been sleeping more than I would prefer lately.  But I have found over the years if I want to sleep more than normal, there is usually a good reason for it.  I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it what is says it needs more often.  Learning to live with mental illness is mainly a trial and error kind of thing.  It wasn’t learned immediately.  Sadly mental illness is one of those tests that is impossible to study for.  I had no idea what having schizophrenia meant when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago.  But then, there is no way I could have known just by reading some books and going to a psychiatrist.  Mental illness effects everything about a life it inflicts just by the nature of the illness.  And since the human brain is the most complex piece of biological machinery we have seen (at least unless we discover alien intelligences superior to our own), it is one of those we still don’t know much about.

One of the things that gives me hope, maybe not for myself so much as future generations afflicted with mental illness problems, is that we are learning more about the human brain every day.  I don’t know if I’ll live to see the fruition of much of this research, but I am encouraged that there is now a push to learn this and see if we can design better treatments with fewer side effects.  As much as I am appreciative of what my anti psych treatment has done for my mental state, there has been a price I had and am still having to pay for this stability.

One of the side effects of my psych treatments is that I gained a lot of weight over the years.  I won’t go into exact numbers but I will say I weigh at least one hundred pounds more than I did when I was first diagnosed.  Yet, I was for all purposes not functioning when I was diagnosed.  I was having mental breakdowns two to three times a week, I could sleep only a couple hours a night, I wanted to spend all my time alone and just avoid people, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even read a single page of a book.  I guess my options were I could keep my physical health but be completely dysfunctional mentally or I could regain my mental stability but have a weakened body because of it.  Not optimal choices by any means.  But I’m glad I opted for the better mental health.  Otherwise I’d probably be dead or in prison.

Even though my physical health has declined over the years, in part because of the treatment’s side effects and the nature of the illness itself, I consider the price to be worth it.  At least for me the price of losing much of my physical vitality was worth the price of keeping myself together mentally.  I have also lost most interest in sex and socializing in person because of the illness.  I haven’t dated in at least ten years and I don’t like going to social functions much anymore.  But I guess there are always trade offs.  I’m actually glad that I was not as ruled by my hormones as most younger men.  It saved me much headache and heartache, especially in my late twenties and early thirties when it became obvious to me that I would never have a wife or children through no fault of my own.

I am not anti marriage or anti family.  I’m quite the opposite actually.  I see my brother and his wife and children as well as my cousins with their spouses and children and I see that, if done properly, family is the best thing that can happen to a person.  I think it really does have a calming effect on people, young men especially, and forces people to be more long term thinkers than they normally would.  I would have loved to had a wife and a couple kids with the picket fence and apple pie kind of life.  But with the mental illness and the hangups involved, I know I would make a lousy husband and father.  As it was I couldn’t manage a minimum wage job with my mental illness even though I was an honors graduate in high school.  So the next best thing is to write about my experiences with mental illness as my purpose for my work and be a good son to my parents and a good uncle to my brother’s kids.  I’m interested to see where this all leads.

Voting, Family Time, and Possibly Moving

Got out and voted Tuesday after dinner.  Since I went later in the day, I missed the crowds.  I was able to get in and get out pretty quick.  As I’ve been having lower back problems recently, I was able to get a chair to sit in while I worked the ballot.  All I had to do was ask.  Sometimes I think people in general don’t get the assistance that could make things easier just because they don’t ask for help.  For years I had problems asking for help as I instead preferred to give help instead.  Only within the last year or so have I gotten comfortable asking for help whenever I have a problem I can’t easily solve on my own.  I guess that I, like many men, am a problem solver.  And sometimes it was tough for me to admit I could use an extra set of hands or extra mind working on a problem.

In other news, my parents are in the process of moving out of state.  They bought a small house in the same town my brother and his family live in.  As all their grandkids are in school now they want to see them grow up and participate in activities and school functions.  I think that once they get settled in permanently in their new house, I’ll look to relocate nearby.  As where they are moving to is in a suburb of a metroplex, I imagine I’ll need to be careful about what kind of low income housing I move to.  My brother has already told me a few neighborhoods that are rougher than others that I should avoid.  As they hope to be relocated by the end of November, I will be hosting them for a Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.  I’ve been spending much of my day after the midterm elections straightening and decluttering my home.  I had been kind of lazy about clutter for the last few weeks.  But I want the place to be presentable as it will probably be our family’s last gathering in Nebraska.

I guess I have mixed emotions about leaving the small farm towns I have known as home my entire life.  I am excited about the possibility of moving to a larger area where I could meet more writers and people with my interests in person.  I am excited about going somewhere that is growing and not so out of the way.  But I am concerned about starting over in my late 30s, especially with mental illness issues.  I am also concerned about fitting in at a different social environment.  I’ve had problems fitting in even among people I grew up with my entire life.  So I am kind of scared of the social aspects as I have problems socializing even in my hometown.

Other than getting to see my nephews and niece more often, I hope my life doesn’t really alter that much.  I do hope I can have a closer friendship with my brother and his wife.  My brother and I weren’t close growing up.  Part of that was traditional sibling rivalries, and another part was that we were such opposites personality and interests wise.  I don’t have any animosity toward him, I just don’t have common interests.  I consider not having a close relationship with my only sibling one of the few regrets I have about my life up to this point.  Sure I regret becoming mentally ill but there isn’t anything I could have personally done to prevent it.  As it is, I have worked around it for twenty years.  I’ve been hospitalized only twice and have avoided trouble with the law.  So I’m doing something alright.

Overall, the last several months of quiet monotony have come to an end.  My parents are relocating and I probably will be too within the next several months.  I am both excited and apprehensive at the same time.  The only true constant if life is change.  But with change comes the possibility of new opportunity.