A Schizophrenic Country Boy’s Journey to Enlightenment

Featured Image -- 6676

Starting to read more traditional books again.  For a couple years I had been lazy, by my standards, about reading.  For most of my life I always had a book I was reading on or re-reading.  I had gotten out of that habit for a little over two years as most of my reading was being done online.  I did listen to a few sci-fi audiobooks on youtube.  My favorites were Foundation by Issac Asimov and a few of Cory Doctrow’s short stories.

But I have recently rediscovered how much I love laying in bed with a book under my nose.  When I was in college, my friends thought I was odd in that I would do most of my homework in bed.  In addition to my homework, I was also reading some of the classics of Western literature from the college library.  Levitt Library was such a second home for me during my college years that I took a job as a tutor there my senior year.  I didn’t really need the money as I lived at home during the summers while working 40 to 50 hours a week and saving my summer money for the school year.

During my ‘self directed study’ program, I sampled philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, read epic poetry by the ancient masters like Homer and Virgil, read lots of history, sampled some of the philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, read some of the major works of Shakespeare, as well as much of the classic poetry of Europe and 19th and early 20th century America.  The works of Emerson and Nietchze resonated with me.  I still have some of their works on my book shelf.  My favorite classical novelist is probably Alexandre Dumas, I especially loved ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’  One summer I read ‘War and Peace’, and it took the entire summer to read it.  The summer after I graduated from college, I managed to slog through ‘The Wealth of Nations’, which is essentially the Bible of free market capitalism.

But my tastes have changed over time, when I was in my late twenties I read all the works of Ayn Rand as well as a lot of military history, namely John Keegan, Victor Davis Hanson, and Barbara Tuchman. In my early thirties, I read many economics and business books.  I enjoyed the works of Napoleon Hill, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar, and Robert Kiyosaki the most. In my mid thirties, I became interested in all things science and future tech.  To that end, I read some of the works of Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, Ronald Bailey, Kevin Kelly, and Peter Diamandis.

After a couple years of letting all this reading ferment, I am ready to dive back into serious reading again.  Even though I have spent a great deal of my life reading those famous books everyone has heard of but never actually read, there are still some books I haven’t gotten to yet that are still on my bucket list.  There are still major philosophers I haven’t gotten into much yet, namely Marx, Kant, Locke, as well as Lao Tzu and Confucious.

Before the prevalence of the internet, some of the entries on my bucket list were to visit the Library of Congress as well as all of the libraries of Harvard University.  But, as it stands now, I can get many of those rare and hard to find works online.  I have hundreds of e-books about philosophy and history that I may never get to read.  But I have them on my computer and iPod.  Kind of mind blowing to think that I have access to the treasure trove of the collected knowledge of civilization available in a manner that would have been impossible even in my childhood and for the price of only one dollar a day in wireless internet connection.  I have access to information that scholars were too often tortured, imprisoned, and killed for seeking in past eras and I don’t even have to leave my living room to acquire it.  I have access to the wisdom of civilization yet I’ll likely never have the money to buy my own house.  Only in the early 21st Century.

Yet, I enjoy living the life of a self  taught scholar.  I made myself into one primarily because school by itself didn’t completely satisfy my love for reading and learning.  Tragically, for some people, their school years stifled their creativity and killed their love of reading and learning.  Even though I make poverty level wages, I can get by with my books and writings.  I can do this because I have zero debts.  I will never go into debt again, not even to learn.  I can learn almost anything online anymore.

If there is any one thing I can take away from my years of self study, it is that the path to enlightenment is a never ending one.  I don’t want to stop learning, ever.  If I make it to my nineties and have to live in a retirement home and not be able to bathe myself, I hope at least I can still read books or online articles.  Maybe, by the time I’m ninety anyone will be able to create entire fantasy worlds on hyper powerful computers and share those with other people via powerful virtual reality.  I would love to be able to recreate some of the worlds I read about in books.  But that is still a long way down the road.  Until then, I can visit such worlds by my reading.

Advertisements

Yet More Changes In Sleep Patterns

I’ve been having changes in my sleep patterns again, this time probably for the better overall.  I’m usually wanting to go to bed around 10pm and I’ll sleep for three hours.  Then I’ll wake up and be up for an hour or two.  Then I’ll go back to sleep until 8am.  Now I spend most of my waking time in daylight hours.  Earlier this summer I spent most of my waking life in the overnight hours.  But I do think it’s for the better.

I was feeling a little more short tempered and easily irritated for a few days earlier this month.  I think the changes of sleep may be a way to ward off bigger problems in the future.  But I’m starting to feel better again even if I am sleeping more.  But at least I sleep when most of the world sleeps now.

August 7, 2018

Been uneventful for a few days.  I’m no longer staying awake all night and sleeping most of the day.  Most of my waking time anymore is during daylight hours.  Mentally I feel stable.  I am starting to get a few more aches and pains I can’t really explain.  But I have been more active than usual.  I’m reading more books again.  For awhile most of what I was reading was online articles and audio books.  I’m currently reading ‘The Inevitable’ by Kevin Kelly.  It’s a future tech trends book.

I watch more live tv now, mostly baseball and soccer.  I still don’t watch most news as most of it is just bad news meant to catch our attention.  All the news that fit to be print, right?  I don’t have any regular shows I watch besides some Star Trek reruns on Netflix.  I do watch a lot of history shows on youtube.  I recently watched Crash Course’s entire world history series.  I always did get a kick out of John Green.

While I do get out more often, I still don’t stray too far from my neighborhood.  Haven’t really been outside of my hometown for almost six weeks.  But I am just comfortable and content to stay close to home and did most of my business here.

I think I’m losing weight again.  I notice my clothes fit looser and I can walk a little farther than I could even a few weeks ago.  I think my aches and pains are from more physical activity than usual.  I can also lift more weight than usual.  Weight lifting does make a difference even after a month.

August 4, 2018

Even though we still have officially six weeks of summer left, it’s starting to feel like autumn is just around the corner.  I’m seeing back to school sales and getting fliers for said sales in my mail on almost a daily basis.  One of my neighbors has tomato and pepper pants in the back yard of our apartment complex and they are looking almost ready for harvest.  My parents have kept tomato plants as far back as I can remember and we always had fresh tomatoes every August.  A friend of mine from out of state and her husband grow tomatoes and peppers to make fresh salsa.  I should sweet talk them into sending me a jar one of these soon days.  School for my nephews and niece starts in two weeks.  Soon I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons watching college football.  I guess I always preferred the college game to the pros, if for no other reason, Nebraska isn’t big enough to support pro teams.

Mentally I still feel quite stable.  And I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I usually eat two large protein rich meals per day and drink mostly only water and coffee.  I don’t even buy bread anymore as I have cut most grains out of my diet.  I don’t eat much for dairy besides Greek yogurt and occasionally cheddar cheese.  But my diet mostly consists of baked and grilled lean meats and fresh vegetables.  I saw an online article featuring a former pro football player who lost over 100 pounds in a year and all he was doing was eating grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, lots of water, and lifting weights three times a week.  While I don’t count on such excellent results, it doesn’t hurt to aim big.  I feel like I’ve made much progress since Independence Day, exactly one month ago today.

I socialize in person more now.  Most days I leave my apartment at least once daily, if to just check the mail or buy a Diet Coke from the ground floor vending machine.  I usually drive my car three times a week just to keep it loose and ready to go.  Still haven’t made any road trips this summer besides going to my parents’ house a couple times.

I am still mentally stable.  I am usually in bed by midnight and awake by nine a.m. most days.  I avoid drama and pointless arguments as much as possible now.  Overall I feel well.  I haven’t felt this well for such a prolonged time period in a few years.  And I love it.

I’m glad that summer is almost over.  I always enjoyed autumn more than summer.  I look forward to the cooler weather, the turning leaves, the farmers’ markets, fall football,  playoff baseball, and the college kids returning to town.  My town really comes to life during the falls and springs when the college is in session.  I can hardly wait.

Changes in Personality and Mental Illness Symptoms with Age

Currently going through a prolonged period of stability.  My levels of depression and anxiety have been quite low lately.  When I do have such issues, they don’t last long and aren’t very bad.  I haven’t had a breakdown of any kind in months.  Haven’t been hospitalized for almost five years now.  I was having feelings of depression and paranoia earlier this year but I wasn’t overly concerned about it as I wasn’t having the anger or aggression issues that traditionally went with it.  Sure I would go days without leaving my apartment, but I wasn’t excessively angry or looking for arguments.  So I wasn’t as worried as I should have been.  Not wanting to socialize for long stretches of time isn’t normal for me.  Sure I have had stretches when I wanted to be left alone for several hours or a day at most.  But I was going sometimes entire weeks when I’d leave my apartment only two or three times the entire week.

Naturally some of my neighbors became concerned.  I may have never been Mr. Popular but I made it a point to be polite and thoughtful to everyone I met.  Yet as I wasn’t even socializing, nor did I want to, that wasn’t normal for me.  I have never been one to just bunker down for days.  I had gotten to that point, particularly during the winter.  It wasn’t my traditional problem with mental illness, but it was a different one.

People do tend to change some with age.  I imagine mental illness issues are probably not much different.  Aspects of my personality and habits have altered over the years.  I’m not as hot tempered as I was even five years ago.  I laugh more often now than I did in my twenties.  I enjoy the little things of life more.  Overall, I’m happier now in my late 30s than I was in my late 20s.  And this is despite my physical health not being as good as it was ten years ago or my being more social than I am now.  I think I have gotten happier and more calm with age.  And I quite enjoy it.

July 22, 2018

Have had my new furniture for a week.  And I must say my apartment is now feeling more like a home again instead of a hide out.  I’m also a month into my new medication routine.  I’m now back to regular sleep patterns again as I usually wake up around 7 am now.  I don’t stay up all night like I used to, even after a few cups of coffee.  Mentally I feel more than stable, I actually feel calm and at peace.  Haven’t felt peace like this for an extended time in years.  And I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I have more energy, I recover quicker from aches and pains, and my clothing is starting to fit looser.

I haven’t had much to report for the last few days as my days have been uneventful.  Fortunately it hasn’t been so hot the last several days, so I’ve been getting outside more often and for longer stretches.  Typically late July is our hottest time of year.  But people are already talking about school starting again and fall football practice starts in a week or two.  I’m avoiding the mall and box stores so as to not fight the back to school shopping crowds.

It’s been a quiet June and July for me.  That’s not normally the case as summers are usually tough times for me.  No doubt I’m on a good luck streak right now.  And I plan to ride it as long as I can.

Socializing In Person and Online

Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often.  I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer.  I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month.  I call home at least twice a week.  And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month.  Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off.  And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often.  I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends.  But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now.  But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with.  I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.

Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.  I readily admit I don’t have great social skills.  I never really have.  But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it.  Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going.  I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had.  Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields.  I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions.  I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community.  I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog.  I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild.  It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away.  A sense of community is important for people.  We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history.  Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.

Entering The Long Haul of Summer and Avoiding People

Another Independence Day has come and gone.  We are now into the middle of summer. From now until usually mid September has traditionally been a tough time of year for me.  I have usually been moodier and more short tempered during the heat of summer.  I am usually good for one psychotic break down during the summer, usually in August or September.  I have had breakdowns in October before too.  But the two times I went to a mental health hospital were both in September.  So as far as the calendar goes, I am beginning to trek into traditionally troublesome times.

I have been avoiding people, at least in person, for the last few days.  I have been doing so well for so long that I don’t really want anything upsetting this winning streak I’m on.  I don’t sleep as much as I used to, but I usually stay up all night until sunrise and sleep until noon most days anymore.  That way I still get some sunlight during the day and get to enjoy the quite and solitude of night as well.  Been spending most of my days reading articles online, watching science videos on youtube, talking to friends and family on the phone, and messing with computers.  I don’t have much of for a social life, but that is by design.  I can’t stand most small talk.  I find talking about the weather, politics, and other people draining, boring, and even physically painful.  I can’t stand talking about mundane and stupid crap I can do nothing about.  Makes me glad I’m an introvert who learned how to keep himself occupied a long time ago.

Looks like I’ll keep this routine up for the next several weeks.  I don’t want to go anywhere and I don’t want to interact with anyone, especially if all they do is complain and moan yet not do anything about their problems.  I’m through listening to petty complaints.  I have enough issues of my own.

Early July or Middle Summer

It’s almost Independence Day in my country.  And of course people are shooting off fireworks and making plans for cookouts already.  I don’t have any real plans besides grill some bratwurst on my electric grill and watch fireworks from my apartment window.  As it has been quite hot and humid the last several days, I have avoided going outside unless necessary.  Of course I’m not getting much sunlight by staying indoors most of the time.

I’m a week into my new medications plan.  I found out the hard way if I take them all at once like I have traditionally done, then I will want to do nothing but sleep for the next twelve hours.  After a couple nights of that, I found out I had to break my medications into at minimum twice a day.  So I usually take some of my medications when I eat breakfast and I take the ones that help me sleep at night before bed.  After a week on these new meds I have found my self eating less than usual.  And I have recently had an odd craving for cheese and milk.  Maybe I haven’t been getting enough calcium the last several months.  I’m also looking out for more non meat sources of proteins like beans.  I now actually want to eat certain fruits like strawberries and blueberries.  Too bad they are kind of pricey.  It’s also too bad that most inexpensive foods aren’t very healthy.  That could explain why so many poor people, at least the poor in the USA, are overweight.

As far as blood pressure goes, I knew for years it was only a matter of time before I ended up on blood pressure pills as that runs in my family.  My father has taken blood pressure medications for years and he’s now in his early 70s.  He also hasn’t had any heart attack or stroke problems.  Hopefully I can make it to my 70s inspite mental illness and being overweight.

I’ve noticed a few changes already in this new treatment.  It takes more to make me irritated.  I’m less paranoid.  I actually want to leave my apartment and interact with my fellow tennants.  I’m better able to stay on top of household chores.  I eat less than normal.  I feel less tense.  I have fewer unexplained aches and pains.  About the only true drawbacks I noticed so far are that I want to sleep more if I’m not careful about when I take my meds and I have to use the rest room more often.  I don’t know if that’s the meds or the fact I drink more water.  I easily drink almost a gallon a water every day.  But there are worse things than water to be consuming.  For a few years I’ve been having nerve problems in my thigh that sometimes felt like burning electrical shocks.  But those problems have all but gone away by now.

I still have to get some new furniture for my apartment.  Most of the things I had were quite old and had to be replaced.  I’m thinking of sweet talking my parents into letting me have one of their sofas.  I also think I need a heavy duty recliner that I could sleep in if my back ever started hurting again.  My living room is looking kind of bare with only a couple kitchen table chairs and my tv and a “coffee table” decorated to look like an old style travel trunk with all the stickers of places and resorts from around the world.  That was my mother’s idea.  I’m glad she talked me into putting those stickers on.

Overall things are going well.  I’m gradually being cured of wanting to sleep all the time.  And I’m also slowly being cured of my desire for sugared soda pop.  Anymore if I want caffeine, I’ll have coffee or tea.  I can hardly wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

Taking Care of Physical Health With Mental Illness

Had a couple doctor appointments the last several days.  I’ve decided I need more help getting back on top of my physical health.  So I now have a regular general practice doctor at a clinic only a few blocks from my home.  For the last few years I had been going to doctors only for emergencies.  But now that I’m not as young as I once was, I imagine I’ll have to make regular appointments more often.  I just don’t bounce back physically as fast now as I did even five years ago.  One of the changes we made was to the blood pressure medication.  As blood pressure issues run in my family, I always knew it was only a matter of time before I started having problems.  I get that new regiment started today and check back in two weeks to see exactly where I stand.

Mentally I feel stable even though some times all I want to do is sleep.  And when I don’t want to sleep, I usually want to stay home.  Since I’ve been home the last few days, I’ve been watching some of the World Cup games.  I readily admit to knowing little about soccer, but I can see how much of the world can like it.  And I constantly have to remind myself that in soccer, there are no television timeouts like in baseball or basketball.  More than once I have been in the restroom or getting something to eat in my kitchen only to miss a goal.  One of our family friends is an immigrant from Mexico and they are doing quite well in the early going.  I was happy to hear that the USA, Canada, and Mexico will be hosting the World Cup in 2026.  I would love to get back in good enough health to attend one of those games or at least one of the festivals in a host city.  Hopefully a city near me, like Kansas City or Denver gets to host a game or two.  I got to see a World Series baseball game in person in 2007.  That was one of the highlights of my mid 20s.  I’m so glad one of my college buddies was able to score a couple tickets.

Other than watching the World Cup tournament and getting back on top of my health, I really haven’t been up to much else.  But with Independence Day coming in a little over a week, I’m sure I’ll be seeing (and hearing) fireworks any day now.