I’m currently at my parents’ house for a couple days for the Thanksgiving holiday. My brother, his wife, and their four kids are here too. We have seven of us sleeping in the basement but at least I get my old bedroom. That way I can retreat and regroup if need be. But my brothers’ kids are well behaved and old enough they shouldn’t give me many problems.
This is the first time in months I have been back to my old childhood home. A lot has changed in this town since I moved out in 2005. For one, all of my old high school friends have moved away. The cousins that stayed have families of their own. Most of my old teachers have retired or moved to bigger schools. All my grandparents and a couple of my uncles have died. My old grade school was torn down. The retail store I worked in during the summers went out of business. In many ways this isn’t the same town I grew up in during the 80s and 90s. I haven’t been getting back to my parents’ place much the last several years as none of my old friends live around here anymore. In many ways, this is no longer my town. It doesn’t feel like home and it hasn’t for several years.
I bring up growing up and the changes my parents’ place have gone under because, with my mental illness, those years I grew up here seem like someone else’s life. I started having problems with depression and anxiety when I was seventeen. I was doing quite well in school and involved in many different activities. It seemed like I was on the fast track to a career and life of my dreams, at least that was until the depression and anxiety started. Twenty years later, my seventeen year old self wouldn’t even recognize the thirty seven year old man I am now. I imagine my seventeen year old self would have seen who I am today as a failure. Back then I knew nothing of mental illness and disability. Like many teenagers, I also didn’t have as much empathy as many adults who have had their ups and downs, wins and losses.
If nothing else, fighting this mental illness for twenty years has taught me how to have more empathy for people different than myself. It has taught me patience and how to accept things I can’t change. It has taught me that, contrary to popular belief, life isn’t about keeping up with other people. Life is mainly about competing with your self and being the best you that you are capable of being. He who dies with the most toys is just as dead as anyone else in the cemetery.
I haven’t been giving much time to reflecting on the past for the last few years. I have mainly been focused on the present and future possibilities. I normally have little use for nostalgic thoughts. But I’m sure having them now that I’m at my childhood home for the first time in months. I guess the nostalgia has shown me how much I lost because of this mental illness. Yet, in spite of the life that never was, I think I still have a great deal to stay alive for. I’m interested to see what the next twenty years in this life of mental illness will show me. I can only guess what changes will have come by the time 2037 rolls in.
The weather is turning colder again indicating that winter won’t be too far away. The leaves on the trees have completely turned. Since I have lots of trees in view of my apartment windows, I can enjoy the autumn foliage and not even put on a coat. I am still a little guarded about whom I socialize with, but at least I socialize a little everyday now. Somedays I’ll stay home most of the time, but I am not as afraid of traveling as I was even a few weeks ago. I try to get outside at least once a day and I’ve been lifting weights for a week now.
I’m also attempting to readjust my sleep patterns to more regular times. For weeks I have been sleeping in the mornings after staying awake most nights. Naturally this messed up my social life and sleep patterns. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been drinking more coffee and hot tea to try to warm up during these colder days. I imagine that this could take several days as I am used to sleeping in the mornings and then being up in the afternoons and overnight hours.
I haven’t seen any family in person since the summer. That will probably change in a few weeks as Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. I have usually been stressed during the holidays in years past. Anymore I avoid going to the stores and malls from Halloween to Christmas just to avoid crowds and the sensory overload. I don’t enjoy Christmas shopping or Christmas music. The only truly Christmas movies I like are It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. I like the supernatural thrillers of Halloween better. I can’t get into those slasher killer movies. So I’ve been watching more supernatural thrillers lately in the spirit of Halloween. I also enjoyed the old ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast. Youtube has a few recordings of that. So I’ll be binge watching Halloween movies for the next couple days.
Started to restock my winter supplies and emergency food. I am now set to the point that I don’t have to venture out for several days if needed. Lately I have been content to stay close to the complex besides running errands. Mentally I have been stable even if I am staying awake most of the night and sleeping in the mornings. Maybe that is why I am so stable.
I have gotten to where in my illness that socializing makes me paranoid and irritable. I no longer enjoy socializing with my neighbors. I no longer enjoy driving, not even across town. I’m pretty much content to just keep to myself anymore. Anymore I am my own favorite company. I hope this is mainly paranoia and the illness, but I really can’t stand to be around most people anymore. I would rather socialize over the phone or online than in person anymore. With the holidays coming in a few weeks, I may be forced out of this isolation routine that has worked so well for me. I’m not looking forward to losing my routines. I am definitely not looking forward to the holidays. I really don’t feel like celebrating much of anything anymore. And I certainly no longer care to celebrate merely because the calendar and society as a whole tells me I have to. Maybe schizophrenia really does get worse with age in some aspects. I don’t have much for hallucinations or angry outbursts anymore. But I do still have paranoia, delusions, and just prefer to be left alone almost all the time. I hope it’s my illness messing with my mind, but I just can’t stand to socialize in person anymore. I definitely can no longer hold a job. I can barely venture out into my hometown without problems anymore. I can only hope this illness stops getting worse as I age. It has definitely screwed with every aspect of my life.
Other than a few bad days and one really bad day, I have been doing quite well for months. I imagine part of this has to do with avoiding angry and rude people. Sure I may not have much of a social life, but at this point in my life I no longer want to deal with rude and irritable people. I suppose I have hit my limit and don’t want to deal with it anymore. This kind of scares me as I am fearful that limiting my socializing will make me jaded and mean spirited as I age. I have known irritable and mean older people my entire life. I promised myself a very long time ago I would not turn out to be an angry and bitter old man. Maybe the only way I can do this is to severely limit who I socialize with anymore. I don’t post anything to Facebook or twitter anymore besides these blog posts. I finally became burned out on all the negativity, drama, etc. I have enough problems in my mentally ill mind that I don’t need my friends and family adding to them. I don’t see many of my friends online anymore either. I suppose they became burned out too. I hope that all this negativity and anger isn’t a new normal.
I really don’t enjoy socializing with most people anymore. I don’t want to socialize with negative and rude people anymore. Yet that is what all I seem to see anymore, online and in my own community. I try to tell my friends and family about what is actually going right, but I get mostly dead silence from these people. The few that do respond usually tell me I’m a liar. Seems to me normal people love to be immersed in anger and negativity. I don’t understand people. Then again I never have. I suppose I never will. I’m just tired of all the anger and negativity. From now on I’ll keep my optimism to myself.
Even though I haven’t heard from many people besides family and a couple close friends, I remain optimistic overall. I get much of my optimism from reading science journals and intentionally looking for humanitarian efforts stories online. Reading these stories from sites like futurism.com, human progress.org, future timeline.net, among many youtube science and tech sites helps to keep me optimistic overall. I know we have problems. But I just became sick and tired of always hearing how bad everything was and how it was never going to get better. I have been hearing about how bad the world was and how bad everyone was since I was old enough to listen in on conversations.
Growing up, I almost never heard my elders or teachers have anything good to say about the future or the world in general. That bothered me for many years. I have been hearing dire predictions for years, yet most of them never came to pass or turned out to be manageable. Several years ago I finally had enough. So I forced myself to do some research and find out what was actually going right. I had to do a lot of research over the last several years to see what we were doing, where we were going, and what had already accomplished. We are doing some really cool things in the realms of science, technology, and humanitarian efforts. You just won’t hear about them on Facebook or the news. Granted this is not a license for problem solvers to get complacent or lazy. Humans have an incredible ability to see into the future and spot potential problems long before they happen. Not only do we have the ability to see what could happen, we also can plan and change accordingly. And we change and plan so well sometimes we forget what the original problems were to begin with.
I haven’t spent much time on Facebook or twitter lately. I still go to Facebook a couple times a day just to see what’s up with friends and family. But, for me, Facebook is the internet’s version of looking in the refrigerator and hoping there’s still some left over pizza from last night. Most of the time you’ll get stuck with hot dogs, moldy cheese, and old lunch meat, but sometimes you get lucky. I still drop in on my tech enthusiasts’ groups, but I don’t participate much beyond liking articles that are being shared. Unfortunately, mental illness and social media don’t mix well. Not much I can do about it besides staying away when I don’t feel well.
I still stay awake quite late most nights. It seems to be when I get the most research and writing done. But at least I’m still getting enough sleep. I do enjoy the quiet and solitude of the overnight hours. I may have odd hours and odd practices, but at least I can still function with my mental illness.
Feeling pretty decent overall the last several days. About the only real issue I have right now is that I prefer to be awake at night and sleep during the days. I still get outside a little everyday, usually in the late afternoons or early evenings. I don’t socialize as much as I have in years past. But it seems to me that most people have been in fouler than usual moods for the last several months. I have abandoned Facebook and twitter, except for my blog, entirely because I am tired of dealing with all the anger and negativity. I have enough chaos going on in my own mind. I won’t be part of anyone else’s. Seriously, is it so tough to be in a decent mood? If I as a mentally ill man can force myself into it for much of the time, surely normal people can. Maybe the reason I feel decent is because I am avoiding people in general.
I admit I’m doing less in some areas in my late 30s than I did even a few years ago. Right now, I have no desire to travel anywhere. I have no desire to ever hold a traditional job again. I have zero desire for a dating relationship. I prefer to be left alone most of the time. I have less tolerance for rude and reckless people. And I am definitely sick of hearing nothing but negativity all the time. At the same time, I keep in more contact with good friends. I read more. I do more brain building activities. I rarely watch tv. I make it a point to not watch the news channels (I can’t wait for those dinosaurs to go extinct). I don’t measure myself by my job or how much money I have. Not having a lot of money is not a big deal to me. I always hated the statement, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” What a stupid idea. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a regular job. It definitely doesn’t bother me that my sweat and toil is no longer making someone else more money than it makes me. I suppose I never was going to make it as a corporate man. And I definitely couldn’t make it as a politician. I’m too honest and I don’t always tell people what they want to hear.
I can’t understand why so many people stay in jobs they hate or stay in toxic relationships. I am fortunate to have some friends who don’t make a lot of money yet they love what they do, namely my friends who became teachers. I have some other friends who yes, they can’t stand their jobs, but they also have side hustles that could or have turned profitable. One friend of mine worked as a gas station clerk until she finally decided to move to a different town and start her own business out of her basement. I left my last “real job” in an attempt to concentrate more on my writing and self education. These blogs are the children of those efforts. And I wouldn’t want to do anything else, at least not at this current point.
Sure I made more money working as a janitor and factory hand in years past, but I have a much further reach with these mental health blogs. Every day I have visitors from outside the USA. I’d say at least a quarter of my readers are not from my country. I hear from people of all ages, backgrounds, careers, etc. because of this work. I get to talk to people of different lifestyles and cultures and I don’t even have to put on shoes or leave my apartment. It’s a great job for me and my situations. Sure it took years of struggle and sadness to get to this level of acceptance to where I can speak freely about my struggles with schizophrenia. But once it became clear to me in my mid twenties that the mental illness would not allow me to hold a regular career, I found out that time was an great asset I possessed. It was just a matter of how I was going to spend the next years of my life. I could have easily become bitter and just dropped out entirely. But with my love of writing and unnaturally high levels of empathy and compassion, I couldn’t be content doing that. Once I learned that blogging could be a way of putting a human face on a mysterious and terrifying affliction, I decided to pursue this. I had never heard of blogging until I was in college. But it is something I am regularly doing and will continue to regularly do. I wonder how many other career paths will be created in the next 15 to 20 years that most people can’t yet imagine.
Once it became clear that my mental illness wasn’t going to allow me to have a regular career, I started pouring more efforts into my writing hobby. At the time I thought I just had to write some big selling novels. I wrote rough drafts for a couple novels but they never went anywhere. I wrote poetry, but who really makes money at being a poet? Finally I turned to nonfiction blogging because there was a need for what I am doing that wasn’t really going filled. I guess that’s the mark of any good artist or business person, find a need not being met and filling said need. I guess out of this blog I was able to salvage something positive out of what could have become a senseless tragedy.
Fall is here. The leaves are turning, the nights are getting longer, and the weather is cooling. Had to run my heater the last few nights. I do enjoy this time of year. It’s been several days since I last wrote. Updates are in order.
I haven’t had much to report the last few days because I have been feeling quite stable since my last breakdown a couple weeks ago. I now make a point to leave my apartment at least once a day. I usually buy groceries for two weeks at a time. Since winter is only a couple months away, I’ll have to start restocking my cold weather supplies soon. I haven’t been to my therapist for a few months simply because I really don’t have much to talk about with him. At this point in my illness, I really don’t have much of a desire to be social to strangers. I don’t really desire to leave my apartment much after dark, not because I live in a bad neighborhood, but because I don’t like driving at night anymore. It’s been a couple years since I went to the movie theatre as it seems that half of what’s shown anymore are remakes I saw the first time in my youth. If I want to watch something anymore, I just go to youtube or netflix. If I want to socialize I just call up my friends and family on the smart phone. I still avoid Facebook some as some people still can be quite nasty to each other over the pettiest differences of opinions. But I’d rather people be jerks to each other online than in person. I think one of the problems is that much can be lost in translation just with written text. I have thought about starting a youtube channel and doing a podcast through that as I think some of what I write can be lost in the reading.
I don’t mind not socializing much at this point in my life. I have always been an introvert who preferred having a few truly loyal friends and family members as opposed to having lots of casual friends. In my family, it seems that people are either extreme extroverts or extreme introverts. But sometimes I am my favorite company. I don’t mind going entire days without talking to people. I do like technology enough that I’m not going to be a modern Henry David Theorau and build a cabin on a lake and retreat from civilization. It can be tough being an introvert in a place and time that values “people person” types and extroversion. I have gotten in lots of trouble over the years for trying to keep to myself and just do my tasks at almost every job I ever had. It just isn’t enough to do the job and do it well anymore. But I know in previous eras I wouldn’t have had a job, I’d be in a mental asylum and probably would have had a short and chaotic life. It would have been much rougher in the past for someone like me. That’s why I’m not nostalgic.