Working From Home For Free and Thoughts on Tech Advances

I’ve been doing this blog about living with schizophrenia for a little over four years at this point.  Even though I haven’t turned a profit from it, I consider it the best and most meaningful job I ever held.  It doesn’t compare.  The only other job I ever held that was even close to being a mental health blogger/advocate was when I was working as an instructors’ aide as a graduate assistant years ago.  I enjoyed substitute teaching classes, grading papers, proctoring exams, answering students’ questions, and doing academic research.  It’s too bad I lost that job because of my grades in the masters’ courses.  I didn’t really care to be some business hotshot; I really wanted to get my masters’ in economics so I could teach economics and personal finance classes at a junior college or small state university.  This was before I found out that the majority of junior college teachers are part timers or adjuncts.  But then, many non management employees are part timers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is so the employers don’t have to pay benefits.  I never got benefits at any job I ever held.  That’s why I’m on disability insurance through Social Security.  If I were to go back to work, it would have to be where I was completely cured of schizophrenia.  Many insurance companies won’t cover preexisting conditions and the suggestion of single payer universal healthcare in the USA is very unpopular.  So here I am on disability and wanting to contribute.  But if I got even a 30 hour a week job at McDonald’s, that would be enough for the feds to toss me out of the program.

Since I am unable to work for money because of the current system, I have had to find other ways to contribute that doesn’t involve me making money.  That is why I blog about life with a mental illness.  Many may dismiss my work as I don’t make money from it and I don’t have a large audience.  But many people do volunteer work and don’t see any money from it.  There are people who deliver meals to elderly and disabled people, people who hand out blankets and bedding at homeless shelters, people who coach Little League baseball, people who teach Sunday school, among numerous others.  A person doesn’t have to make a lot of money (or any money) to make a difference in other people’s lives.  My brother works as an engineer and makes six figures, but I doubt he has thousands of people in over 100 different nations that have seen his work.  My parents have done medical missionary work in Panama and had a reach that way.  And they made no money from their several trips.  Sometimes a person has to do something just because it’s the right and beneficial thing to do regardless if money changes hands.

One of highest paid professions in the world is as hedge fund manager on Wall Street.  And yet do they really build anything or create anything besides moving money (most of it digits on a computer) around?  I’m not anti business but I think there are better measures of someone’s worth to a nation or civilization than how big their net worth is.  I understand if someone produces a service, an idea, or an item that many people want, then yes that person should probably make something in return for the years of thankless hard work and hard times. The “overnight successes” often came to be that way through years of quiet hard work, having good mentors and studying their fields. If this blog ever became something like a best selling book or a well watched youtube channel or lead to a career as a writer for an online journal, I wouldn’t refuse the money.  I just hope I wouldn’t forget that telling the truth about mental illness and it’s related problems should be what my work is all about.

Ideally, I would love to be cured of schizophrenia and be able to work again and not worry about having to take medications every night.  As many advances as medical science is making anymore, that might not be the fantasy it was even ten years ago.  If I did become cured, sure I would have to find a job and likely update my education.  But that would be a good headache to have.  With my blogging skills, maybe I could get a job as a technical writer.  Or maybe by then machines will have taken most of the jobs and made living so inexpensive that money doesn’t matter very much.  Just in my life in the last ten years, with so much being digitized and put for free or near free access online, I can live cheaper now than I could ten years ago.  And if things like 3D printing takes off like most technicians and scientists think it will, money will matter even less to me ten years from now than it does now.  A farmer in rural Africa with a micro financed smart phone has more computing power and access to civilization’s information than did NASA in the 1960s when they were sending astronauts to the moon and back.  We are living in some cool and interesting times.  And right now much of this can be enjoyed by even lower class people (at least lower class by modern standards) for not much money.  And I think as tech advances, money may matter less and less with each passing decade.  Maybe when I’m an old man unpaid work will be the norm because machines do most of the manufacturing or farming.  It is some cool times were in even if the ride is bumpy and rough at times.  Stay tuned.

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Late Summers, Changes in Diet, and Mental Stability

Late summers have traditionally been a tough time for me dealing with mental illness.  I usually have to be real careful from late July to early September.  So far this year has been different.  It could be due to reducing my stress levels and avoiding stressful people and places.  It could be due to the medication changes I made a few months ago.  And it could be due to changes in my diet.  I now don’t eat much wheat or anything that’ll upset my stomach.  I have found that I feel better on days I don’t eat bread than on days I do.  I have had stomach problems in the past.  Stomach issues aren’t uncommon in people with depression and mental health issues.  I pretty much limit myself to lots of protein and vegetables anymore.  About the only grains I eat on a regular basis anymore are rice based foods.  Rice seems to be easier on me than wheat and other grains.

When I do go to restaurants I don’t order things like french fries or most other fried foods.  I do occasionally treat myself to chicken strips at KFC.  I have pretty much also cut out sugar too.  When I do crave caffeine, I usually opt for green tea, coffee, or diet soda.  I notice I’m less irritable on days I limit sugar consumption.  Easing back on the caffeine was tough the first several days as I would occasionally sleep more than I would like and sometimes experience slight headaches once a day.  But I think I have gotten past the worst of the caffeine withdrawal.  I used to drink four to six cups of coffee a day, certainly not healthy when dealing with mental health problems.

I have found myself eating more vegetables than usual.  Even when I order delivery pizza, I make it a point to get the mostly vegetable pizzas.  I don’t feel as weighed down and bloated after a few slices of vegetable pizza as compared to the all meats or cheeses pizzas.  Since I’m on a limited budget I have to be careful about buying fresh vegetables that won’t spoil within a couple days.  So I usually eat a can of vegetables every days, usually green peas or green beans.  I have had some good sweet corn, a Midwest late summer tradition.  When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to have sweet corn with dinner three nights  a week during the month of August.  Most of our meals during late summer involved locally grown sweet corn, tomatoes from our garden, and bacon sandwiches.  My parents have introduced my nephews and niece to this August tradition too, even though it will be another few years before the kids develop a taste for tomatoes.

Overall I have felt really decent this summer.  I don’t have much drama to report.  I’m glad that the push for the playoffs in baseball is starting.  I’m also looking forward to the start of football season here in the US in a few weeks.  Fall practice has already begun and school will be starting again in a few days.  I saw that many countries started their soccer seasons this weekend.  I have made a habit of following the US national team since the last World Cup.  I hope we make it to the next one coming up in 2018.  Since the World Cup will be hosted by Russia next summer, I imagine I’ll be watching soccer at a lot of odd hours to adjust for the time differences.  I have kind of gotten into soccer as I have two nephews and a niece who play the game.  Even as a kid I was a slow runner but  didn’t mind getting hit or hitting others.  So that’s why I played football in high school. So that’s why I still watch football in the falls.  But we have made it through the long stretch of summer and fall will be here soon.  It helps that it has been cooler than usual the last several days in my part of the US.  Makes me hopeful for fall and the return of cooler weather.

Insomnia

Been having troubles sleeping at night lately.  And not much I do seems to help.  I’ve reduced my caffeine intake, I take my medications right before I traditionally go to bed, and I try avoid being on social media right before I go to sleep.  Yet for the last several days I have been up for most of the night and sleep in the mornings.

I’m still getting eight hours of sleep every day.  It’s when I’m getting that sleep that is a problem.  Since I sleep so much in the mornings and sometimes take an afternoon nap, my social life has dwindled to near non existent.  I still get out a little bit in the afternoons and evenings to check my mail and take out my trash.  But I worry that my neighbors might be getting concerned with how little they see me.  Mentally I still feel stable, it’s just that I’m awake when most people are asleep.  Physically I think I’m doing better.  Having fewer unexplainable aches and pains.

Another thing I have noticed this summer is that I don’t have the appetite I used to.  I don’t eat as much as I used to.  Since I have been having back and knee issues for much of this summer, I have been forced into days with less activity and moving around.  It is bothersome being kind of housebound for a good part of the day.  Maybe this what I get to look forward to in my old age.  But the big advantage of not eating as much is that I think I’ve lost some weight.  I notice that my clothes are fitting better.  A few large shirts I bought several months ago are almost too big now.

I still keep in contact with friends and family quite often.  I have a few friends I chat with a little every day via Facebook.  I’m still active in my science and tech enthusiasts groups.  I still call my parents two to three times a week.  I have the old college friend I talk to at least two to three times per month.  I’m still doing fantasy baseball league.  Hard to believe that summer is almost over.  Even though this has been a long summer, it’s hard to believe that autumn and harvest will be here in four to six weeks.  The corn harvest is always in full force by October 1st.  I’ll have to visit the local farmers’ market this fall.  I missed out on that last year.

Even though I’m up at odd hours and I don’t get out as much as I would like, I still keep my social contacts up.  Like many people of my generation and younger, I’d feel naked without my smart phone and social media accounts.  But I haven’t gotten to taking lots of selfies or pictures of my dinners, at least not yet.  I sleep at odd hours but that hasn’t effected my mental health.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a traditional job anymore.  My schedules are more unpredictable now than even five years ago even though I am more mentally stable most of the time.  It’s that one to two percent of bad days that give me the most problems still.

My Thoughts on Possibly Moving to a City

I’m going to go off subject for this post.  But some major changes may be happing in my life soon.  I might be moving to a larger city.  Which excites me as most of my friends and family have already moved to larger areas.  I’m pretty much the last person of my group of friends left in a rural area. My father has been saying since the 1980s that rural America’s greatest export isn’t crops but it’s most intelligent young people.  I didn’t believe him when I was in school because even though I was around some troublemakers who didn’t want to be there, I could find smart people to hang out with whenever I wanted.  It wasn’t until I got out of college and into the workforce did I realize just how right my father was.  Finding intelligent people to have in depth and far flung intelligent conversations with is brutally tough.  And it got tougher the older I became.

I should have known something was amiss when most of my friends left the rural area I lived in and went to major cities to find jobs requiring lots of brain power.  Even most of my cousins moved to larger areas.  One cousin of mine lived in a suburb of our state capital but still telecommuted from his home for several years.  Even I telecommute with this blog.  I wouldn’t have anywhere near the reach without the internet.  Yet I think I could do even better if I was in a larger city with more in person contacts.  I stayed in a rural area mainly because of my family and wanting to be close to family while I worked though life with a mental illness.  Now my parents are talking about moving to Oklahoma City to be near my brother and his family.  If they go, I’m going with them.  It was always my plan that I would move to be near my brother after my parents died.  But I might not have to wait that long.  Besides, I like having my parents around.

It’s not that I am anti social or don’t like communicating with people.  I love having intelligent conversations.  A half hour intelligent conversation with family members or old friends is enough to recharge my batteries for a few days.  Intelligent conversation and learning new things actually makes me feel physically good.  It gives me a high that no drug, money, or woman can duplicate.  Yet I don’t get that much in the low income housing complex or rural town I live in.  I didn’t used to believe it, but I now really believe that there is a “brain drain” that is taking really smart people out of rural areas and sending those brains to urban and suburban areas where there are high paying jobs that require lots of brain power to accomplish. I have met some really sharp farm workers and factory workers over the years of living in rural areas.  But I still think they could be doing much better had they gotten some high tech education and moved to a larger city.

Most of my friends in high school and college were really sharp people.  As a result, all of them moved out of the rural area I grew up in.  And most of them are making pretty decent money.  My brother is an engineer for a large firm and so is his wife.  He wouldn’t be doing nearly as well had he stayed in the rural areas.  A friend of mine living in a Midwest city and her husband are considering moving to the coast because of better job opportunities.  My parents are considering moving to Oklahoma City to be closer to the grandkids.  If they move, then I won’t be far behind.  Part of me has always wanted to see what life in a city was like.  I do find it annoying that public transit doesn’t really exist in my town.  If I had access to public transit, I’m not sure I’d even own a car.  I don’t like driving.  I never have.  And I know many younger people don’t even want to own cars.

I have never lived in a city.  Yet pretty much every one I know who lives in rural areas are trying to tell me how bad city living is and how unfriendly city people are.  I have met plenty of unfriendly people in rural areas too.  If you look hard enough, you can find whatever you want in people pretty much anywhere.  I’m not scared of moving to a city.  I am ready for a new chapter in my life.  And I feel I have gone as far as I can go living in a rural area.

August 2nd, 2017

July has faded into August.  In a few weeks school will be starting again in many places.  Seems that school starts earlier every year.  But now that we are into August it does seem like autumn isn’t too far away.  Another four to six weeks of hot weather and we should be done for the year.

Since it has been hotter than usual and for longer stretches this summer, I have spent more time inside.  Haven’t been getting as much exercise as I would like.  So I have been eating less.  I’m back to having usually only two meals a day.  But I think I have lost a few pounds despite my lowered activity because I am eating less.  Mentally I have been quite stable, especially for my summer standards.  I think I’m doing well just by avoiding stressful situations and people.  These certainly make my life more pleasant and quiet.  I’m even getting fewer aches and pains too.  Even though I don’t exercise as much as I would like, I still get out and walk around for a few minutes every day.

I really haven’t talked to anyone lately outside of family.  But I can do alright alone for long periods of time.  Loneliness doesn’t really bother me that much.  Loneliness is easier than dealing with rude and stupid people all the time.  I just enjoy my quiet and alone times.

I have so far made it through half of summer with no issues.  Hopefully the second half can also go well.  Once things cool off for good I am usually alright.  I have usually done better in winters and springs than summers and early autumns.

Improvements

Been feeling better physically the last few days.  I’m getting out of the apartment several times a day, I spend a little time outside everyday, I’m walking more again, and I’m eating less junk food too.  As a result I’m feeling fewer aches and pains and sleeping better.  I still sleep in my recliner as my back still acts up if I sleep in a bed more than a few hours at a time.  I’ll probably spend the rest of the summer in my recliner and just let my back heal.

I’ve been feeling well mentally all summer.  That’s a welcome relief as summers have traditionally been a rough time of year for me.  My best times tend to be springs and winters.  I do feel better in autumn than summer usually but I have had problems in autumn in the past.  So far this summer has gone along rather uneventful.  It has been quite hot this month so I usually won’t go outside in the middle of the day.  I do my shopping usually in the evenings or early mornings.  I don’t go out in the overnight like I used to but I am still an incurable night person.

Haven’t had any problems with depression for weeks.  Haven’t had issues with anxiety or delusions either.  The only real hallucinations I have experienced this summer are occasionally hearing footsteps in the hallway when no one is there and I’ll still have unexplainable itching on my arms like ants walking but nothing is there.  Overall I’m doing alright.  I think I have even managed to lose a few pounds in the last couple weeks.

Don’t really have much to report.  Mentally I’ve been feeling stable.  Physically I’m feeling better with each passing day and getting more and more active all the time.  Sometimes no news is good news.

Thankfulness Despite Mental Illness

I’ve spent almost twenty years dealing with mental illness problems.  Even though I have now spent more than half my life dealing with these problems, I am still pretty happy and content with how my life turned out.  Sure I would be better off losing some weight or having more friends in my hometown, but overall I’m enjoying my life even though I have to deal with schizophrenia.  At least I enjoy it the 99 percent of the time that I’m not having problems with hallucinations, delusions, and excessive anxiety.  I think the older I have gotten, the more I have learned how to work around the illness.  I do have to avoid stressful people and situations.  I have to do most of my shopping either online or in early morning hours to avoid crowds.  I won’t have the high paying and prestigious career like my brother has.  I will never have a wife and kids or the big house in a good suburb.  But as I have aged and seen in my own self and others with mental illness, I could be a lot worse.  If I was born in 1920 instead of 1980, I probably would have been living permanently in a mental hospital or homeless.  That is why I am thankful that medications and social safety nets exist that didn’t exist even fifty years ago.  Some of the medications I’m on didn’t exist even ten years ago.

Even though I don’t have a lot of nearby friends and don’t make much money, I’m still pretty happy overall.  I have been able to pursue what makes me happy and content despite being on disability insurance and living in low income housing.  Happiness for me is talking with friends over the phone, or participating in the futurist groups I’m part of on Facebook, or just grilling cheap steaks and watching college football on chilly fall afternoons.  I am fortunate that I have simple tastes.  Even though both my parents were medical professionals and made good money, they didn’t spoil my brother and I.  We were expected to either have after school and summer jobs or be involved in school activities year round.  I wasn’t uncommon for me to play a football game on Friday nights and spend my Saturday afternoons working as a shelf stocker at a general store when I was in high school.  During the summers, my brother usually reported to work at a fast food place every morning by 4 am to provide spending money so he could get his engineering degree.  I didn’t understand why my parents expected so much out of us when we were growing, but now I do.  And I’m glad for it.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  If I were able to raise children, I would be the same way.

If anything, I am thankful for what I have even if it isn’t what it could have been.  I’m glad that I can write about my experiences.  I write for those who can’t speak for themselves and to let others with mental illness know that they are not alone and things can get better.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of time but things can become quite stable even with a mental illness.