Dealing With Self Doubt

There are times when I am in the grip of a mental illness flareup that I fear that I make no difference.  I sometimes fear I make no difference in anything I do.  I fear I make no difference to my friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc.  I certainly fear that I make no difference with this blog even though I’ve poured my heart, soul, and life into it for years.

One of the things that makes me doubt myself and fear I don’t make a difference is that I constantly repeat myself.  As much as I repeat myself, especially when trying to share some positive news of what is going right, I get convinced my words and actions fall on only deaf ears and blind eyes.  I get burned out on telling people what is actually going right and that most of the doom and gloom that is the accepted spirit of our times are really temporary setbacks and not the end of the cosmos.  But no one outside of a handful of people are listening and what I say means nothing.  At least that is the impression my disease infested mind keeps giving.

Most times I can’t read a person or what they are thinking at any given moment.  I can’t easily gage the moment the moment thoughts even if I can easily trace long term trends and possibilities.  I suppose it’s similar to a military general who isn’t good at winning individual battles yet ends up winning an entire war simply because they are excellent long term planners.  Even as a child I was a much better long term thinker than I was on a short term.  And it used to irritate my friends, teachers, bosses, and parents real bad.  Anytime I tired to explain that they were sweating the small things while losing sight of the entire picture, well I was condemned for having problems with authority and being a hopeless dreamer.  Very few appreciated the fact that I was a long term thinker outside of a few cool teachers, my two best friends in high school, and my grandparents.

Of course this learned apprehension about not making any difference, at least not short term, has been made even worse by the mental illness.  I try my best to remind myself that I am making a difference and I am making people think and question why the status quo is the way it is.  And when I am not in the grips of the illness I know I am.  Sadly, when the illness wins out, I seriously doubt my own abilities and if I am making a difference.  I suppose it’s like a rapid version of the change of seasons or even high tide and low tide.  The human mind is that powerful in that it can make false or distorted perceptions into an individual’s reality.  We think, therefore we are I suppose.

I try telling people about the struggles involved in mental illness.  But during moments of weakness I fear I make no difference.  I know it’s not considered manly to express or feel fear or express and feel anything for that matter.  But I no longer care about the expectations of others.  Haven’t since I figured out at age seventeen that nothing I did would be considered good enough for some people.  Some people will never be satisfied with what I do simply because that is the way they are.  Such people are lost causes not worth even talking to or thinking about as far as I am concerned.  I deal with such people only when absolutely unavoidable.

I try telling people about the advances in science, tech, humanitarian efforts, etc.  But it makes no difference to most people.  I remember a line in The Matrix were an AI named Agent Smith stated to the effect that humans find definition and meaning in misery and suffering and are incapable of accepting happiness and peace.  I find this to be true in many of my day to day interactions with others, even with close friends and family.  I hope it’s the blinders cast by the illness that makes me think this way.  I really do.  Maybe we vastly overestimate how much can be done on the short term but vastly underestimate the changes that can be done medium to long term.

Perhaps that is why the days at a dead end job or raising small children drag on forever but the years and decades pass rapidly.  One day you’re 27 years old and get a bad annual review and a demotion from your boss or your two year old is screaming like he’s demon possessed because you won’t buy him a candy bar in the Wal Mart check out.  Those days feel like a torment right out of Dante’s Inferno.  But, wake up and you’re in your fifties and you’re the boss giving out bad annual reviews or you’re an elderly man on your death bed looking out at four generations of offspring from your marriage and feeling kind of bittersweet for not taking more time to appreciate your kids when they were asking endless questions or for foregoing summer vacations and weekends to work a thankless job that, not only didn’t miss you when you retired or got laid off, but can probably be done by a machine or algorithm better and cheaper.

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who never could imagine a world where their labor or delusional self importance wasn’t needed.  We are living in that said world.  Billions of dead people who couldn’t imagine a world as it is now and getting along just fine without them.  Our descendants will live in such a world that won’t remember us for what work we did or what stupid arguments we were part of or anything for that matter.  Because of genealogy, some people might get their names remembered for centuries.  But no one will remember or care what they believed, how they worked, how they treated their kids and spouse, how they voted, etc.

Rather than being saddened by this fact of life, I am actually encouraged by it.  I don’t have to save the world by myself.  I am not the center of the cosmos (thank God).  I am not responsible for the short sightedness and ignorance of others, only my own.  And I needlessly worry about how others live their lives, especially if it doesn’t directly harm me or those I care about.  I am not a superhero who has to save the world.  I’m essentially an independent scholar with numerous interests trying to encourage those I encounter in this adventure we call life.  Yet, because of my illness, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that I am just one man among billions of humans and that I don’t have to win all battles or save the cosmos on my own.

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Mutual Respect and Conversations With Friends

Got to have a short, but decent, chat with my best friend yesterday.  First decent chat I had in awhile.  Even though we’ve been friends for years and both of us have had problems with depression and burnout lately, it was amazing how we were able to pick up like we never left off.  She, like myself, has been having problems with depression and anxiety for awhile.  We are both distressed by people who have misplaced priorities.  But we were able to chat, primarily about literature and novels made into movies.  I had been chatting with her a little every day most days.  But it felt especially enriching for some reason yesterday, even if the conversation was only for a few minutes.

I also reestablished contact with some of my tech enthusiasts’ groups on facebook.  And the conversations were actually quite civil.  I had been avoiding most of my groups for the last few weeks as some of them had become nasty and brutish.  It seems that the larger the group on facebook, usually the greater the chance for a lack of civility.  That’s why I usually don’t participate in large discussion groups.  I usually look for niche groups with fewer than a few thousand followers.  I felt fortunate to have a decent conversation for the first time in weeks.  It’s quite amazing how much can be accomplished when people stop tearing each other apart and actually attempt to show decency and compassion.

Compassion and decency aren’t as valued as they should be, at least not recently.  I never understood the idea that insulting and demeaning people would somehow motivate them to action.  It inspires the opposite in me.  It shows to me that you are a brute and not worth my attention or effort.  I don’t care if you do outrank me and are in a position of power.  I have never respected people who abuse their power.  I never will.  I temporarily tolerate jerks and blowhards only when I have no choice.  Most people I know are the same way.  We may “yes sir” or “no ma’am” a jerk in power when we have no choice.  But in private, among our friends and families, we make it clear we don’t respect people like that.  In the long run, most people won’t respect or love people who are arrogant and abuse their positions.  What a person sends out to the cosmos and their fellow humans tends to come back to them on a long enough time scale.  I understood this even as a child.  I tolerated bad and abusive people only when I had no choice.  I certainly didn’t respect them.  And once I had an opportunity to be rid of such people, I took full advantage of it.  What abusive and arrogant people condemn as being a ‘nice guy’ was considered ‘honor’ and ‘chivalry’ in previous ages.  It’s time to bring back the concept of honor.

In short, it’s quite amazing what one can accomplish just by treating other people with decency, respect, and honor.  Just a few minutes of conversations involving mutual respect rather than trying to insult, preach to, or shout down others was enough to recharge my batteries and undo a long string of abuse at the hands of brutes and fools.

Avoiding Toxic and Negative People While Mentally Ill

I haven’t been socializing much lately outside of family and close friends.  I don’t post on facebook much anymore because I have better uses of my time than debate and defend myself against negative and toxic people.  It seems to me that the negativity on social media tends to ebb and flow, almost like the tides.  And sometimes I have runs where I’m the only one I know (it seems) who even tries to stay optimistic and positive.  In cases like this, a vacation from the social media circus is in order.  I’ve been doing this for several days now.  I still go on once or twice a day just to see if my friends, family, and chat groups are up to anything new.  And in cases when everything is going negative and irritable, I limit my responses and posts to bare minimum.  I try not to philosophize and ask deep questions anymore, even on friends sites.  It’s kind of tough as I am a bit of a philosopher and researcher by nature.  Have been my entire life.  Joe Rogan put it well when he said to the effect ‘do high achievers spend their time answering critics on twitter?’  Of course not.  I doubt most high achievers and celebrities spend much time on social media.  I imagine most of their posts are really done by a public relations worker.

I used to live on social media.  It could be fun and it could also be stressful.  But like any new tech advances, there is a a learning curve to social media.  I try not to post things I know will start unneeded arguments.  And let’s be honest, most arguments on social media are not needed and aren’t productive.  I doubt scientists trying to accomplish things like making safe AI, trying to crack nuclear fusion, trying to cure cancer, or develop treatments to slow aging, etc. are getting into twitter arguments or trolling scientists working for rival companies or universities.  But I guess I don’t see as nasty and personal of insults online as I did even a couple years ago.  It still happens, but I think an unwritten code of ethics and conduct is starting to develop when it comes to social media.

But I still make a point of avoiding people when they are being negative.  I certainly avoid toxic people who run down other people, especially those trying to do something constructive with their lives.  I guess I really don’t have the patience to put up with negative people.  I don’t want to be bothered with them.  Let them stay away until they stop being so negative and irritable.  My mental illness makes it easier to sink into negativity than it would for most other people.  That’s why I force myself to read optimistic literature and search for good news stories.  I am not a natural optimist.  But I do look at data and trends.

I avoid negative and toxic people but not out of spite.  I avoid these people because I don’t want to be toxic and negative myself.  I have had many bouts of negativity and depression over the years.  I’ll probably be more prone to fall into negativity and toxic behavior for the rest of my life, barring some major breakthroughs in medical and psychological treatments.  I avoid toxic and negative people for my own health and well being.  It’s nothing personal.

Avoiding Pessimists and Overcoming Paranoia

Been feeling decent overall the last several days.  I haven’t had much for flare ups lately.  I think it helps I cut back on caffeine and sugar.  Too much of either can make me irritable and sluggish.  One of my neighbors recently moved out so it’s been quieter than usual lately in my complex.  I signed another lease last week, so that’s finally taken care of.  I guess I was delaying and worrying over nothing.  Since I emailed my bank and social security disability information to my landlady a couple weeks earlier, all I had to do was sign a bunch of papers.  It took maybe fifteen minutes overall.  I was fretting and worrying over something that turned out to be far easier than I thought.  As I had been fighting excessive paranoia and anxiety this winter and spring I was worried about the whole process.  I was even worried I might get evicted.

I guess I have experienced too much negativity in my life that I pretty much expect the worst anymore.  I have lost jobs and friends for some very petty reasons.  After going through that several times, I became convinced anyone in authority can mess me over for whatever reason they see fit and there isn’t anything I can do about it.  It didn’t help any that, in the past, when I asked for help, I was too often denied help and even condemned for asking for help.  It came to where I had zero trust of authority figures for anything.  Anymore I just try to stay low and out of sight.  I can’t stop authority from messing me over, I can only lower the chances that they do.  I never understood why it makes some people feel important when they screw over someone who can’t fight back.  And I never will.

Overall I try to stay out of sight, out of mind with almost everyone who isn’t friend or family anymore.  I am tired of putting up with irritable and angry people.  And I especially hate sarcasm and snark.  Neither are original anymore.  I think empathy and compassion is the new edgy and rebellion.  It sickens me how most people I know and hear from every day have no empathy for others.  And it spills into all aspects of life.  I’m tired of dealing with it.  I’m going hermit until people come to their senses.  If you have nothing decent to say or are just going to be a pessimist all the time, don’t waste my time.  I lost years of my life being a pessimist and believing everything sucked and was only getting worse.  I hate pessimists.  They just drain the life and joy out of everything they encounter.  And they certainly never propose solutions.  And I no longer want to hear it.  I have dealt with schizophrenia for over twenty years, yet I am more optimistic than most neurotypical people I know.

Feeling Decent and Keeping Occupied

Been feeling decent overall the last few days.  Still sleeping a lot but too much sleep is better than having breakdowns.  Even though I don’t leave my apartment for long periods of time, I still make it a point to stay active.  I have an exercise bike I ride a little bit every day.  And I have done arm weights three times a week for two months.  I’m starting to notice improvements even if they aren’t coming as fast as I would like.  But my health didn’t fall apart right away so it’s foolish to think I can gain it back immediately.  It’s going to be a long process and it’s one I’m glad I began.

Been listening to more music lately.  I renewed my subscription to Spotify a few months ago and I use it a little every day.  My PC got fixed a couple weeks ago.  I now have my primary gaming computer/backup to my Mac again.  As much as I enjoy my computers, I was feeling like I was naked in public while running my blogs and online interactions with no backups.  My PC took only a few days to fix.  But my depression and anxiety has been strong enough I couldn’t bring myself to go across town to get it fixed.  I finally had to sweet talk my dad into taking the computer to the shop when he was in town a few weeks ago.  And to get it picked up, I sweet talked my cleaning lady/personal assistant into picking it up.  It is tough for me to ask for help and admit weaknesses.

For most of my life I was the one who helped others out and voluntarily ran errands for family and friends.  I was kind of a taxi service for friends and family in high school and college.  I don’t remember how many times I ran friends across town or took them to restaurants when they wanted a break from the campus mess hall.  Many of my friends didn’t have cars when we were in high school and college.  And now I’m the one who asks for rides and delivery service because of the changing nature of my mental illness as I age.

I am convince people’s psychology does change with age.  Mine certainly has.  I look to avoid arguments and conflicts more now in my late 30s than I did even five years ago. I really no longer feel shame for wanting to be alone for long periods of time.  And I know sometimes I can step away from friends and family for several days and pick up where I left off.  A compliant of my romantic interests was that I was often too clingy and always wanted to be around my romance interests.  I understand why. I wasn’t being attentive, I was being smothering. No one was meant to be all things to anyone.  There are things I can talk with around family I won’t discuss with even close friends and vice versa.  It took me awhile to learn that I don’t have to ask any one person to be everything for me.  Mental illness stunted my social development in some ways.

In other ways it forced me to grow faster than most people.  And it certainly made me question my core beliefs and who I really was and what I really liked doing.  I am convinced had I never become mentally ill I would have never developed my ability as a writer and story teller.  I am probably better at communication with a mental illness than I would be without one.  I probably would be at a job I can’t stand because I would be too stubborn to quit and find something else.

I doubt I would have as wide a variety of interests had I remained mentally well.  I know I wouldn’t have spent so many years learning different subjects at the university of Youtube videos.  I have spent a shameful amount of time watching educational videos, science lectures, TED talks, and audiobooks on youtube over the last six years.  And the thing is, I could spend the rest of my life learning things and I wouldn’t feel like I learned enough and don’t need to learn anymore.  The more I learn, the more I realize there is even more out there.  Einstein once said to the effect that the universe is far more strange than we can imagine.  I’m learning that truth more and more with each passing day.

Overall I’m doing quite well.  Starting to settle into summer routines even though it feels like early spring outside.  I still have my bad moments, but at least they aren’t bad days now.  Even my flare ups aren’t as intense as they were in recent years.  My flare ups now involve more depression and less anger now.  But things are looking better with each passing day.

May 19 2019

Been quite a bit warmer the last several days.  After a chilly and damp spring it looks like summer is on the way.  Been sleeping more lately.  Usually I take a couple naps during the day and usually go to bed for the night around 11pm.  I’ll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night but I’m usually up for good by 7am.  Overall I’m stabilizing.  Haven’t been as irritable lately.  I am beginning to have more moments of optimism.  I don’t know if this is because I am avoiding negative people more or what.  It is sad I have to limit my interactions with other people for fear of relapses.  But it is what has to be done I guess.

I don’t socialize online as much lately, even though I’m beginning to notice less overall negativity now.  I guess I’m just content to keep to myself for now.  I don’t hear from friends much now.  But I guess everyone is busy these days.  Besides most of my friends seem quite stressed with jobs and family issues anymore.  I just can’t help them or relate to these problems.  So it is probably best not to get involved.

Even though I have little to no social life these days, it doesn’t bother me as much now as it did even a few weeks ago.  I have gotten used to it I suppose.  And I know I’m not the only one dealing with loneliness and occasional bouts of depression and anxiety.  Almost everyone I know is in this situation now.

I guess I have not much to report on because not much new drama has come up.  But I was needing a few days with no drama.  We can all use such days.

Being Ignored While Reaching Out

Saw my parents a couple times over the last few days.  It was good to have visitors for an extended time.  I hardly get any visitors anymore.  I guess I have hit the age where most of my friends are busy with their careers and families.  Other than a few friends who are divorcees, I have only one close friend right who has never been married.  Unfortunately he is quite busy with work and lives in another country.

I feel like I miss out on a great deal because I don’t have a family and can’t work.  Most of my friends conversations revolve around work, spouses, and children.  And sadly, many of my friends are also depressed and anxious.  I guess with most of my friends being in their late 30s and early 40s, I imagine many are experiencing mid life crisis type things.  That and pretty much everyone is more stressed now anyway.  There are times I am quite stressed too even though I have no job or wife or kids.  I spent most of this spring in a deep depression where I would go entire days without leaving my apartment.  Some days I slept twelve to fifteen hours a day because sleep was the only time I didn’t feel anxious or depressed or irritable.  I was isolating from neighbors and avoiding people because I was depressed and anxious and I was depressed and anxious because I was lonely all the time.  And on it went in a vicious cycle.

I miss my friends and family.  I miss having in depth and meandering conversations that cover many different topics.  About the only person I have those with anymore are my mother.  Everyone else seems to be hung up on work, debts, family, etc.  They have become too busy earning a living that they forgot why they stay alive.  Naturally I can’t talk to any of my friend about this.  Because they are too stressed living paycheck to paycheck to engage in anything besides work and sleep it seems.  And I have been having a great deal of paranoia lately that my friends really don’t like me that much.

This paranoia might spring from that most of my friends don’t reach out to me, at least not lately.  Anytime I try to reach out to friends, I usually get no response.  When I do get responses, they are usually short answers or complaints about how bad their lives are and how lucky I am.  It’s really discouraging and sad.  We tell people in distress to reach out for help all the time.  Yet, what is the point of reaching out when most of time we are ignored or made fun of?  And people wonder why, in spite of our prosperity and having all but conquered absolute poverty, we are unhappy and depressed.  We are unhappy and depressed precisely because we don’t make efforts to connect to people or answer those who are lonely.  We bought into the whole rugged individualism to where we believe we have to just bear it if we can’t solve our own problems.  This is really heartless and stupid.  In our age, we are far more interdependent than any of us as individuals or nations realize.  And until we acknowledge this and adapt accordingly on an individual, civilizational, and species level, we will only see our issues of anxiety, depression, and loneliness become far worse.  We are already seeing epidemic levels of stress related illnesses.  If mental health problems got even a fraction of the attention that physical illnesses like cancer got, we would be well on our way to alleviating these problems.  Yet, we as a society and individuals choose to make them worse in those around us and in ourselves.