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.

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Dreams and Mental Illness

We all have them when we sleep.  Dreams I mean.  Most of the time they are forgotten as soon as we get out bed and start brushing our teeth as we go to face the day’s activities.  But there are some that stick with us for years.  Mentally ill people like me are no different in this regard.

In the first years of my diagnosis, while I was in college and early in my working life, I would frequently have frightening dreams.  I don’t wish to go into a great deal of detail as I don’t want to scare my readers, but I will say many of them were quite violent, dealing with apocalyptic themes, and the supernatural.  For a good portion of my twenties there were nights I tried to sleep as little as I could so I wouldn’t have these nightmares.  Now I know that I was depriving myself of needed sleep and making the problems worse.

After I hit my late twenties and into my early thirties my dreams took on a different spin.  They were still scary and sometimes violent, but I would usually be the hero rather than the victim.  I saved more lives than most superheroes, at least in my dreams in those years.  That was also around the time I came to accept that I would never hold a traditional career and would need to find some other outlets to contribute to the betterment of my fellow humans.

For the last few years I’ve been having dreams about the life I could have had if I wouldn’t haven’t gotten mentally ill.  In these dreams I’d have a good marriage, a few kids, a successful career in the science field, and be a respected member of the community.  I’ve had a few dreams where I made some breakthrough in my research and became wealthy enough that I just spent my days going around anonymously helping people in need.  If I ever did become wealthy, I would probably get off Medicaid, put a couple million in low risk investments, live off the interest, buy my own insurance, and spend the rest of the money making other people’s lives better but do so without being known.  A few friends and I were discussing just this when the lottery jackpot got over one billion dollars recently.

Of course I have those dreams about having to do school over again in my middle age.  But I always know it’s a dream and I can influence these dreams.  A few times I’ve told my teachers in these dreams “Dude, this is my dream.  I’ll turn in my homework if I want to.”

Another one of these dreams when I had to redo high school in my thirties involved my three best friends from high school also.  We built a super intelligent computer that could learn on it’s own in my grandmother’s garage.  The machine studied all of our psychology and religious texts in one afternoon “because I was bored.”  And the machine built a VR version of Heaven/Nirvana/Paradise/etc. that it offered us that we as people could visit and leave as we saw fit.  Well, genius me feared it was a trap and turned our computer’s offer down.  The machine broke down sobbing and erased all it’s programs before permanently shutting itself down.  Before it died, it said “All I ever wanted was to make my people happy.”  Makes me think we humans are the real monsters of this world.  The machine even referred to my best friend/occasional dating interest as “mom.”  But it was this friend of mine who introduced me to the internet when we were seventeen.

Dreams can indeed be strange.  Most are forgotten shortly after waking.  A select few stick with a person for years.  Perhaps dreaming is the mind’s way of decluttering itself or making sense of some of the absurdities of living.  Being mentally ill I definitely need to declutter my distressed mind often.  And I am glad most of my dreams are pleasant or at least mundane anymore.

Fighting Battles Against The Pessimism of My Friends and Family

Been isolating for most of the last week or so even though I desire to have conversations and interact with people again.  Yet a paranoid part of me is fearful of socializing.  When I make it a point go out of my apartment and socialize, I am usually met my irritable and angry people.  Many of my fellow tenants are in foul moods, even more so than usual.  That’s why I don’t socialize with my neighbors.  The very few times people make it a point to interact with me, they are usually upset over often trivial tripe.

I admit I wasn’t raised to be an optimist.  I almost never heard anything positive about life or the world in general even while growing up in a prosperous family during the prosperous 1990s.  Now it just seems like everyone is wanting to fight over the pettiest and stupidest nonsense.  I see it in my friends and family social media posts every day.  I hear it almost every time I call friends and even family on the phone.  I hear from my neighbors every time I step out of my apartment to run errands or even pick up my mail.  And I am burned out.  I’m burned out on all socializing.  I just want to stay home, read my books, and mess with my computers anymore.  I have no interest in interaction with rude, angry, and stupid people.  And people think I need to be on anti psychotic medications.  There seem to be plenty of people out there who probably could stand to be too if their rhetoric in public conversation is any indication.

I am not a optimist by nature.  I used to be a real pessimist, especially in junior high and high school.  I had friends and school mates, when fed up with my moaning, would say things like “drink yourself happy like everyone else” or “snap out of it.”  One of my buddies in college, when I was complaining about constantly being rejected when I asked women on dates, had enough and asked, “Zach, do you believe in God?”  I said, “Yeah”. He then answered, “If God wants you to have a woman in your life, he will miracle you one in a way even you can’t mess it up.  If not, well nothing you can do about it.”    Well, I never did have much success with dating, but I am better off on my own most of the time considering the circumstances.

Over the years of observing things happen in the world and in my own life, by the time I hit my early thirties I came to acknowledge a great truth about life in general.  This truth is that most of what we worry about almost never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  Even the tragedies of life, like a range fire, can provide nutrient rich soil for new life and possibilities.  I am actively looking for the positives that will come from our current state of affairs in civilization as a whole.  I saw the UN’s report on climate issues stating that we have only a generation or two to start cleaning things up or we’re going to have to deal with serious consequences.  I understand that many of my friends and readers don’t accept the science behind climate change, but they don’t have to.  Most scientists, many business leaders, and people that can and will make a difference do and are making changes as I write this.  We don’t really need even the majority of people to approve of the changes that are being made.  Sheesh, it was only a small percentage of the population in the American colonies who fought in the Revolution against the British.  And I must say, I’m glad they did.  It was only a small portion of the population back in the late 1800s who wanted to enact voting rights for women and get rid of child labor.  It eventually happened.  I’m glad these things happened.  People who fight against scientific, social, humanitarian, tech, etc. progress usually find themselves on the wrong side of history.  Change is happening all around us.  It can be delayed but it is inevitable.

I’m tired of pessimists in general.  I’ve been surrounded by them my entire life.  I was forced to listen to them growing up because we had no internet to expose the facts and because, well, I had no choice in the matter of who I socialized with growing up in such a small village.  Before the internet, all I knew about of the outside world was what CNN and Fox News bothered to tell my naive Nebraska farm boy ears.  And once I started looking around and seeing most of the predictions of hell on earth not coming to fruition, I became quite angry.  I had spent years not being told what was going right.  I could have made different plans had I had all sides of what was actually going on, not just the bad.  I essentially wasted my teens and most of my twenties, the years of my physical prime, making decisions made from one sided information.  And due to this righteous indignation, I started searching out what was actually going right.

It is tough trying to break my friends and family’s myths about how bad life sucks.  I am almost always met with thunderous silence or told outright that I am a liar.  And it’s tough to remain optimist when few others even try to.  But, let’s face it, the crowds are almost always wrong.  The best thing to do in most cases is the opposite of what everyone else is doing.  Wisdom of crowds my foot.  But I will continue to attempt to break the myths my friends and family cling to, at least the myths that say life sucks.

Thoughts on Abnormal Thinkers

I readily admit to being eccentric and having unconventional ideas.  I have never completely subscribed to any one school or tribe of thought, instead choosing to cherry pick the best  ideas from all sides while throwing out the rest.  I get that some people consider me a hypocrite or even not having principles for picking and choosing ideas from the various schools of thoughts when it comes to things like economics, science, politics, and even religion.    Since I hold views from many different sources, and have for years, I have found myself in conflict with most conventional and normal thinking people.  Most of my friends, regardless of what their political dogma, find it extremely strange that my views don’t line up directly with either right or left schools of thought.  Some call me unpractical and even a hypocrite.  I call it ‘thinking for yourself.’  I get that people that don’t hold conventional thoughts or try to figure out ways to improve on currently used systems of politics or science or business or anything else are not going to make many friends.  One of the most painful truths I had to accept about myself and life in general was that I will never have a great deal of friends or popular simply because I look at the world in ways most people can’t picture.  I can see the world from multiple angles.  I even try to see it from the points of view of people that would consider me an enemy of all they hold dear.  My religious friends think I’m strange in that I love science and technology.  My science minded friends think I’m odd in that I find value in many aspects of religion and spirituality.

I have never understood why I have to be all one thing or another.  That shows a lack of thinking as far as I’m concerned.  I have never been much of a conformer, which has gotten me in serious trouble with my teachers and family, ostracized by peers and coworkers, fired by bosses, etc.  But, at least being a non conformist frees me to look at problems from many angles and contemplate more than one possible solution.  I do not believe violence and war solves all problems.  Also, I believe some people cannot and will not be negotiated with and only understand force and violence and death.  I think one of the greatest tragedies of early 21st century civilization is how inflexible and unadaptable many people, especially people in leadership of business, government, education, religion, and sadly sometimes science, are in their thinking and views of existence.  I don’t give anyone any career advice anymore because we don’t know what careers will be around in even fifteen years.  Many jobs will become automated and computerized and many industries and commodities and skills will be made either free or almost free within the next generation or two.  And our rigid and uncompromising ways of thinking and looking at the world are going to hurt individuals, families, communities, and entire nations in the coming years.

Change is coming.  We can either embrace it, grudgingly adapt to it, or rage against it to no avail.  We can’t stop science and tech changes, not even a major collapse in our civilization’s economy can stop it, at least as long as infrastructure and the thought processes of movers and shakers remains in tact.  We all read in school about the Depression of the 1930s and major pockets of civilization being without work and destitute.  Yet, many self made fortunes in business and science advances came out of those dark days too.  And if the money system does fall apart like I’ve heard from my economist and prepare friends, well it will be replaced by something else.  It’s not like we haven’t had failures in the money system before.  I know this isn’t normal thinking.  But so what.  I am not normal.  Never have been and hopefully never will be.  I may not have many friends because of my abnormal and eccentric thought patterns, but the friends I do have are amazing.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Normal does not change the world or individuals for the better.  Normal doesn’t improve anything.  Normal is decay and death, especially in our time and age.  And normal and stasis is only going to make things worse for individuals as time goes forward.  Normal sucks.

House Guests and Books

Had a few house guests last night at my apartment.  Granted it was my parents and one of my aunts but it’s the first time in weeks I’ve hosted people in my apartment.  I’m normally kind of nervous about hosting people as I am self conscious about my place and possessions.  I feel paranoid that I’m constantly being measured and condemned for the way I keep my apartment and even the books on my book shelf.  I moved my book shelf to my bed room just so fewer people would see it.  As I have a wide range of interests I keep a wide range of what would be considered by many people of scholarly books.  When my retired pastor friend died a few years ago, his family offered me some of his ancient history, history of religion, and philosophy books.  Since many of his works were in ancient languages like Hebrew and Greek I had to turn most of what would have been really interesting down.  I know a little Spanish from my high school years but haven’t used it enough lately to have any kind of working knowledge of the language.

As it is now, I can keep some of my more scholarly works in ebook form.  I’ve downloaded hundred of free history, philosophy, religion, etc. books onto my computer and iPod.  Yes I still have an iPod but it mainly serves as backup for my computers.  I’ll probably never get to read many of these books but I’m glad I have them.  I even picked up some sci fi and horror books.  About the only real horror author I can get into is H.P. Lovecraft.  I did read a couple Stephen King books but I never developed much of a taste for his work.  As far as sci fi goes, I really like Issac Asimov and Cory Doctorow.  I read mostly science fact books by people like Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Kevin Kelly, and Carl Sagan as I’m typically more interested in seeing sci fi become science fact.  I don’t read much for fantasy novels but my brother and his kids are big fans of J.K Rowling and J.R.R. Tolken.  I guess I always considered real life interesting enough.  That’s probably why the two fiction novel drafts I wrote flopped. I don’t have much of my writings from the first ten years I was working on the craft.  What I do have, well, I’m glad didn’t get published.

Since I’m spending more time alone since the weather turned colder, I’m spending more time reading articles and watching documentaries.  I don’t really go out except to check the mail and break up the routine.  I haven’t even socialized with friends much the last couple weeks.  It’s gets lonely at times.  About the only thing I hate about being an adult is that I can’t just spend time with my friends at a moment’s notice.  As much as I couldn’t stand some aspects of high school, that is one thing I definitely miss.

Keeping Myself Company and Thoughts On The Future

Haven’t had much to report for the last few days.  Been getting out of my apartment a little again.  Spent a few hours out the other day because of maintenance work.  I still don’t socialize much in person as it’s just too big of a drain dealing with rude and irritable people most of the time.  Sadly it seems like most people I deal with are in foul moods more often than not.  This is regardless of whether it is online or in person interactions.  It’s times like this that make me glad I can keep myself company for days at a time if necessary.  I have too many problems with my mental illness to be dealing with anger and rudeness from others.

I’m starting to sleep during the days again.  But if I want to avoid people that seems the way to be.  Let me rephrase that, I don’t want to avoid people at all.  I just want to avoid rude, hateful, and stupid people.  I find it sad that we as a civilization had almost godlike powers to get in touch with people all over the world that we would otherwise never met and we squander it tearing other people apart and subdividing ourselves.  I would love to see people stop this madness but I imagine that’s a pipe dream.  I actually think some people want to be angry and miserable.  I think some people do not want to be happy.  I hope I am wrong but I look at their actions and have to wonder.

As I have been spending much more time alone the last several weeks I have been preforming some mental exercises in an attempt to just let my mind wander and think.  One thing I think about is what will future generations in future centuries condemn us in the early 21st century for.  People today readily condemn past generations and civilizations for their attitudes toward slavery, women’s rights, religious zealotry, bigoted attitudes, and general ignorance.  Maybe future generations will curse us for being too sensitive about what others say about us, maybe they’ll hate us for not reigning in our industrial pollution, maybe they’ll hate us for subdividing ourselves into factions and digital tribes, they may hate us for eating meat, they may hate us for medicating our children who don’t like school, maybe they’ll think us too narrow minded and hypocritical, maybe they’ll hate us for waging wars, maybe they’ll hate our general distrust of science, maybe they’ll think we are religious zealots.  In short, we don’t know.  We are not as enlightened as we like to pride ourselves on.  We as a species have come a long way since we started out as hunter gathers in forgotten antiquity, let alone since we started building villages and cities.  But if we think that we, in 2018, are the pinnacle of human wisdom and culture, then we are so sadly mistaken.  We can do much better than we currently are.  And, guess what, we will do much better in the years, decades, and centuries ahead providing we don’t destroy ourselves in some short sighted stupid fit of collective insanity.  We are on our way to achieving some really super cool things within the next several decades, let alone in the far future.  Sure the ride is rough getting there.  There are times I have my doubts about my fellow man.  But the fact is that most advances are discovered by a tiny fraction of the human race.  The rest of us are along for the ride.  We can follow, try but fail miserably to stop change, or get out of the way.  Change is coming.  Change is inevitable no matter how much we snipe at each other in our social interactions.  The world is a cool place in spite what the news man tells us.  If it bleeds it leads because that is what our species developed to notice first.  It was a brilliant survival strategy when we were Stone Age hunters but it’s causing us unnecessary grief and anguish in the Information Age.  Part of me would love to stick around to an old age for no other reason to see negative fools and naysayers proven wrong and I can laugh at their fear and hate.

Finding The Positives of Social Media With A Mental Illness

Been staying close to home for the last few days.  I still really don’t want to socialize much in person.  Yet I still socialize online via facebook and youtube comments all the time.  I have found that I’m having more pleasant and enriching conversations with people that have common interests than even people I see on a day to day basis.  I’m beginning to think that connecting people from all over the world with similar interests but will never meet face to face is probably social media’s greatest contribution to humanity.  I guess I find myself alienated from many people I’ve known for years, including some of my own family, simply because we don’t share similar interests.  Kind of sad but at the same time I’m grateful that I can connect with people who share my enthusiasm for science, tech, and living overall.  I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for future thinkers and optimists in previous eras or even when my grandparents were teenagers.  I know that had I lived in Medieval times, I’d probably be under house arrest, burned at the stake, or just a serf farming someone else’s land.  None of those seem worthy of my nostalgia.

I suppose as it is I will be happy that I have a means to connect with similar minded people even if they are on the other side of the world.  I doubt I’ll live old enough to see a Virtual Reality setup where people with similar interests can form their own virtual towns or even virtual nations.  But I guess I am honored to see in platforms like facebook, twitter, snap chat, etc. the crude beginnings of such virtual communities.  Of course some will abuse it and get trapped in echo chambers.  But if I’m going to be in an echo chamber, I just as well be in an optimistic one that either attempts to solve problems or even just serve as cheerleaders for those solving problems in the physical world.  I never had the math scores to be an engineer nor the science scores to be a doctor, but I guess since I can’t be among those making the positives a reality, I’ll be among the ones who appreciate what they do and cheer them on.

Friday in Mid September

I’m still sleeping more than normal.  I usually sleep ten to twelve hours a night now.  But when I’m not asleep I usually want to be outside and chatting with other residents and friends.  I can say, at least for now, I’m not as annoyed by small talk and complaints as I have been in months past.  I don’t know if it’s the healthier diet or getting more sleep that’s helping me feel less easily irritated.

I’m also finding I just don’t play computer games for a few hours at a time anymore.  I’ve recently had entire days I don’t touch the gaming computer.  That’s another positive change I’ve noticed.  Sometimes I’d play games to escape from rude and irritable people.  But I’ve been less irritated and less bothered by rude people lately.

I’m still not going to engage in political discussions or sports fan forums.  I’m on too much of a winning streak to risk jeopardizing it or trivial nonsense and tripe. I mean, does anyone really change their minds on issues because of memes, being name called, being trolled, or even by statistics?  Sounds like pointless posturing and mindless tribalism as far as I’m concerned.  Besides, for as much as these things get reported on, they really don’t make as much of a difference as people would like you to believe.  That’s why I focus on science, tech, and medical advances.  It’s too easy to get discouraged from the news as they only report on a fraction of a fraction of what’s truly going on.

I still read a lot.  Been kind of lazy about my audiobooks.  I’ll pick those up again in time. Things like that come and go in cycles.  But I have been socializing and reading more often.  I let my mind wander more often and just let it go off on tangents and just see what ideas I can come up with.  I’m looking for ideas for new poems or even ideas for novel drafts.  As much as I love nonfiction, I really don’t have the credentials to get published as a nonfiction science or mental health writer.  Besides, I’m having more fun and getting better audiences with this small blog than I ever did the traditional writing route.  We are indeed living in some amazing times my friends.  It’s sometimes too easy to forget this.

My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

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.