Starting Over and Trying to Achieve A Balanced Life With Mental Illness

Been feeling pretty decent over all the last few days.  It’s amazing what a few nights of consistent sleep and a change to a healthier diet can do.  I’ve also been doing arm weights every other day for the last two weeks.  Starting to notice a difference already.  I haven’t increased the weight I’m lifting but I can do more reps now with less aches and pains afterward.  The first couple sessions were tough as I hadn’t regularly lifted for over a year.  But as my back still sometimes flares up at the worst possible times, I have to start somewhere.  And building back some muscles seems to be the best thing I can do with my more limited mobility.  I am beginning to understand why the older residents and those with physical disabilities prefer to live on ground floor.  I’ve lived on top floor of my complex for almost thirteen years now.  I still like that I’m not always in the center of traffic but it does get tough when the back is acting up.  And of course, losing weight would only help my back.

After my last rough go, I decided to get more serious about health again.  I had let that slide for a few years.  I think it started when I had my car accident and had to have rehab for a few months.  Yet the back would still occasionally flare up to where, at the worst, it felt like I was getting electric shocks in my lower back.  As a result I gained back all the weight I lost in 2014 and 2015.  I had lost eighty pounds in a year and a half overall.  Sadly I gained some extra too.  But I am getting serious about eating healthier and adopting a more balanced lifestyle.

For the few years I was having back problems and not working to improve my health, I spent much of my days reading and watching educational videos.  I watched mainly science and tech videos.  But I also watched some how to videos, such as basic in home repairs and emergency preparation with household items.  Since I grew up in a farming community that was a one hour drive from the nearest Wal Mart, every one in our town stocked up on supplies before winter started or had plans in case of bad storms or floods.  This has helped me several times since I moved out on my own.  When I was in college, I was the dude on our wing who had all the over the counter medical supplies and miscellaneous items like toe nail clippers, flash lights, and Swiss Army knife.

Yet while I was building up my mind, my physical body was declining.  I was well on my way to essentially becoming a strong mind with a weak body, almost like a head in a jar in the science fiction shows.  Finally, I came to realize that having a strong mind would do me little good if my body completely failed.  Even though Stephen Hawking was sick for most of his adult life, I imagine he lasted as long as he did because he and his assistants adhered to strict protocols on what he could eat, on how much sleep he needed, etc.  Not that I am Hawking by any means 🙂

So to jump start my healthier routines, I have had to make some changes.  Namely cutting out sugared drinks, reducing my caffeine use, increasing how much water I drink, getting more consistent sleep, taking multi vitamins and fish oil, lifting weights, avoiding negative and toxic people, conversations and entertainment, etc.  I guess the deciding to avoid my neighbors when they were being irritable and rude was the first step to changing my health.

Another step that helped was hiring a personal assistant.  She comes in once every week to help me keep the place clean.  In addition to cleaning, she helps with my dishes and garbage.  Having a cleaner and more orderly house just these last few months has only helped.  It has motivated me to make even better changes.  I admit, I had let much in my life fall apart since my accident.  I stopped exercising.  I quit being careful about what I ate.  I stopped most socializing.  I sometimes skipped my medications.  I didn’t go off them completely, but I would sometimes go a day without taking them.  Lucky I didn’t have more problems with that.  And I went between being quite optimistic to being quite pessimistic but nothing in between for awhile. In short, I had no balance in my life.

Hopefully with the adopting of healthier habits, hiring a personal assistant, and the return of warmer weather I can return to some balance.

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Asking ‘Why’ and Not Caring About Popular Opinions

I readily admit that I am anything but normal.  I wasn’t normal even before I became mentally ill.  One thing that definitely makes me abnormal is that I have to always ask questions.  I just have to know why things work or don’t work the way that they do.  I imagine in some aspects I’m the six year kid who asks ‘why’ to everything as a thirty eight year old adult.  I found people were annoyed at me as a six year old when I kept asking questions and they are even more annoyed that as a man entering my middle aged years I still ask ‘why’ to everything.

I never understood why people got angry when I asked questions.  When I don’t ask questions is when I don’t learn.  When I don’t learn I make mistakes in my school work, my job, my relationships, my dating life, etc.  And then people get angry because I didn’t ask questions.  I think this is strange at best and mind numbingly stupid at worst.  Do you want people to learn or not?  If yes, then how are they supposed to learn if they aren’t free to ask questions?  I guess that asking questions means you have ‘attitude problems’ or ‘don’t respect authority’ to some people.  I don’t understand this.

I don’t even understand people who don’t question much of anything.  Are they that compliant?  Do they not have any sense of wonder or curiosity?  And furthermore, why do such people feel a visceral need to condemn those of us who are asking questions and looking for ways to improve any and all things.  I have never taken authority as unquestionable truth.  And I never will at this point.  I was always told ‘get with the program’ or ‘wait until you’re an adult’ or ‘wait until you hit the cold cruel world’ when I was asking “too many” questions or trying to ignore things that made no sense.  Well, I am an adult who still isn’t with the program and I still ask questions and have a burning desire to learn.  The cold and cruel world has hit me more than it has some people, and the only time I am not an optimist is when I’m in the deep grips of the illness.  In short, I proved my critics and elders dead wrong.  I didn’t make their mistakes.  And I am a more interesting man and better conversation than they themselves could ever be.  It’s because I didn’t quit asking.  I didn’t quit seeking.  I didn’t quit experimenting.  I didn’t let my curiosity and sense of wonder be murdered by the short sighted demands and duties of adulthood.  My soul didn’t die in a job I hated that I did just to pay rent and buy food.  I didn’t become a bitter and angry old man because I had a few failed relationships and never got married.  I didn’t start condemning the “damn kids” when I became a man.  I remembered what it was like to be condemned as one of the “damn kids” as a teenager even though I was more ethical and had better morals than most of my elders and elected rulers.  It sucked.  I haven’t forgotten that even after all these years.  I never will forget.  I vowed when I was eighteen that I would never pull that on anyone.

I will continue to evolve and ask questions no matter how old I get.  I refuse, flat out refuse, to be one of these bitter old codgers screaming at the kids on his lawn and pining for good old days that were quite lousy in many ways for many people.  I don’t even see owning a lawn as an old man even if I do get rich.  Jack Kerouac once said if you need to own a welcome mat, then you own too much.  I don’t know if I’d go that extreme but I did like Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club’ saying “The things you own eventually own you” and “once you’ve lost everything, you’re free to do anything.”  I don’t know about that extreme either, but for my own personal experiences I have lost most of what modern society deems the hallmarks of decent living.  I lost my career because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance to ever become rich because of mental illness.  I lost most of my physical health because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance for marriage, relationships, sexual intimacy, children because mental illness made me impossible to live with.  I even lost my ability to drive a car in high traffic areas because of mental illness.  Most of my countrymen would think I am a complete loser just because of these measures and stats on paper.  But, with mental illness and entering old age, I have learned that I don’t have to care what others think any more.  As a result, I don’t care what others think.  I don’t want to impress people.  I don’t really care if I am liked.  I don’t even care if people believe me anymore.  I have found that usually when people think I’m lying the most is exactly when I’m telling the most truth.  That, and I’m just ahead of the curve.  I don’t care to stop asking why.  Not now, not ever.  I also no longer feel a visceral need to impress anyone.  I will continue to ask why until I die.  And I don’t care who likes or dislikes me in the process.

Frustration With My Schizophrenia and Apologies

Haven’t been doing well lately.  Spent the better part of the last week and a half being a hermit and trying to avoid everyone else’s drama.  Decided to venture out today.  First thing I see as soon as I leave my apartment is several of my neighbors involved in a major argument.  It was bad enough I should have called the police on these people.  But it wouldn’t have done any good and would have made me a marked man among my neighbors.  I rarely long for the past, but the level of civility I see among my neighbors and friends is pathetic.  I’ve say they are like children but even children don’t act as bad as what I see and hear on a daily basis.  We say to ourselves “I ain’t sparing the rod on my child because that ain’t what my daddy did.”  I see more adults who could use spankings and beatings than I do children anymore.

I have reached my breaking point.  I have spent months more or less alone because I no longer want to deal with rude and irritable people all the time.  And when I do get out to socialize, I am constantly bombarded by negativity and stupidity.  It’s enough to make a man pull his hair out.  It is healthy to cut negative people out of your life, I am living proof of that.  But, when the vast majority of people near you are in a negative and toxic mood, it makes for many long days at home alone.  Maybe I just have too much compassion.  Maybe I just have too strong of feelings and passions.  I definitely am a passionate person who will speak his mind even if it is unpopular.  Been this way since childhood.  It made me an outcast as a child and got me ignored as a young man and now it’s driving wedges between myself and my neighbors and friends.  I hate having strong passions and feeling.  I hate having schizophrenia make these feelings even stronger.  I am sorry I am what I am.

End of Winter, Maybe

Getting out of the apartment more than once a day now.  For awhile during the fall and winter, there would be times I’d go entire days without leaving my apartment.  But I guess that spending my days chatting with online friends, reading articles, and messing with computer games and programs gets stale after awhile.  A change was due.  Right now much of my region of the country is getting bad blizzards.  I personally have only a couple inches of snow, some ice, but terrible winds.  Fortunately it isn’t as cold as it could be, otherwise it would be Ice Age revisited.  And this happened right as most of the snow we’ve had since before Christmas was melted.  But, this being a late winter blizzard, should be melted soon.  Then we’ll worry about flooding.  So it goes.

Now that I actually want to leave my apartment and venture out, I can’t because of weather.  I’ve been bound to my town all winter just because it was too risky to travel.  My car doesn’t do well in snow.  So I pretty much stay inside most of the time.  I do force myself outside every few days just to get what little sunshine and fresh air I can.

Been having a few minor flare ups of irritability and depression lately.  Fortunately I’ve been able to constructively deal with these.  I do have to sleep more and severely limit my caffeine.  I haven’t had coffee in over a week.  While I do feel less irritable, I do sleep more and feel more scattered.  Fortunately I don’t get much for back pain anymore.  Maybe I have lost more weight.  I exercise some every day.  And I make it a point to stand up or lay down every couple hours so as to break up the boredom and long days.  Been a tougher than usual winter.  Physically it’s been tough because of the snow, cold, wind, and lack of physical activity.  It hasn’t been too terrible mentally.  The last several days have been the toughest.  But I’ve been socializing more too.  And I admit I get more irritated with rude people than I should.  I almost never respond to rude people except to avoid them at all costs.  I have enough going on already without dealing with unnecessary rudeness.

The unexplainable aches and pains are becoming less common.  I guess I’m taking more preventative measures now.  I no longer sit for more than two hours at a time. I sleep in my recliner half of the night to rest my lower back.  I sleep lying down so not to get leg cramps from sitting too long.  I take hot showers at least twice a day now, mainly to keep my joints warm and loose.  Sometimes a few minutes of hot running water on my knees, lower back, and hands will work more wonders than even a couple Advil.  And making a point to get up every couple hours to do even simple things like walk to the kitchen to get a cup of water or walking to check my mail every evening can keep my joints loose.  I think one of the problems I was having with my back and unexplainable aches was that I didn’t move around enough.  I went through a state of excessive paranoia and anxiety for much of 2017 and all of 2018.  I was scared to drive my car, I was scared to talk to my neighbors, I was scared to leave my apartment after dark, I was scared to walk my neighborhood, and I was even scared to check my mail.  Most of my mail is junk mail now that I do everything online almost.  The 1 percent that wasn’t junk mail was usually from social security or my landlady.  I always felt a tinge of anxiety with those letters, and any time I was called before anyone in authority.  I’ve had too many bad experiences with short sighted, heartless, and irritable people in authority over me.  I just don’t trust authority to not abuse their power and influence anymore.  And, yes, it is unnerving and scary.

Winter is almost over, at least according to the calendar.  And it isn’t happening too soon.  I’m beginning to get cabin fever real bad.  I guess even strong people have their breaking points.  I am convinced I would feel much better when the weather warms up and there are options to how to spend my days.

Successful Anger Management and Dealing With the End of Winter

Had a little bit of a flare up of irritability and anxiety this afternoon.  Sometimes these can be started if I have too much caffeine in a real short time.  And since I’ve been drinking more coffee and vanilla flavored cola the last several days and not sleeping as much as I usually do, it was only a matter of time before it caught up to me.  Fortunately I navigated out of my flare up without taking it out on anyone.  After a few minutes of fuming and fitting and ranting (though not yelling) and taking my irritability out by punching a few pillows and doing some arm weights, I think I’m back to my usual self.

The weather is quite decent today in spite being windy and partly cloudy all day.  It’s been above freezing the last few days, so the snow and ice melts during the day.  But it still gets below freezing after sunset, so it does make travel at night kind of unnerving for me.  I never could have made it as a truck driver with as much as I don’t like driving in bad weather or heavy traffic.

As it is, it’s days like this that remind me that winter is just about over.  And the start of Lent season for my Catholic friends is another reminder too.  A college friend of mine teaches school in Netherlands and went to Italy for a few days this last week.  He visited the Vatican and got to hear the Pope speak on Ash Wednesday.  Definitely something on “the bucket list” for anyone with an interest in history and culture.  The closest culture thing of that kind of magnitude I ever did was visit ancient Aztec pyramids and ruins when I visited Mexico City as a teenager.  So glad I got to travel some and see a few cool things before the mental illness got to where it put a cramp on my physical health and ability to travel for days at a time.

Spring is about here.  Baseball starts in a couple weeks, two of my closest friends have birthdays next week, my brother’s birthday is later in March, and the last season of Game of Thrones gets going, ironically on April 14, the day before tax deadline here in USA.  April, May, and June have always been happy times of year for me.  It’s isn’t icy or cold like winter, not too hot and humid like summer, and not the rush of activities that fall is with the start of school, harvest, preparing for winter, and fall sports seasons.

I didn’t get as much hard reading done as I would have liked this winter.  Sure I made it a point to read every day, but I read mostly online articles for science and tech sites.  Too bad more of this isn’t reported on the large media outlets, though they are getting better about it recently.  I look forward to warmer weather and more sunshine.  We went almost a month in my town without getting above freezing point.  One of the longest bitter cold streaks I can remember.  But the beginning of the end of winter is here.

Thoughts on Winter and Blogging While Mentally Ill

Been awhile since I wrote.  Haven’t really had too much to report lately.  It’s been too cold and too much snow to really go anywhere or do much of anything.  I’m getting burned out on reading, messing with my computers, and just staying home.  I’m glad to hear it’s supposed to start warming up again, at least by early March standards within a couple days.  I don’t think my town has been above freezing point in three weeks.  It’s one of the toughest cold spells I can recall.  There are times I have gone a few days in a row without even going outside it’s been so cold.  I don’t even know how much snow we still have on the ground except that it’s at least twelve inches.  Looking out my window, I can see one of the parking lots across the street from my house has piles of shoveled snow at least ten feet tall.  I used to go sledding on piles like that growing up.  It’s been one of the snowiest winters I can recall.  I haven’t seen even dried up grass since Christmas.

I write about the weather because I don’t have much else to report.  Been fairly stable overall.  I sleep maybe eight hours a day, but not all at once.  I usually sleep five hours in the night and take a couple naps during the day.  My days normally start around four a.m.   I usually nap for a couple hours in the afternoon, usually for an hour in the evening after dinner, and then I usually take my medications and call the day done around ten p.m.  I like this routine actually more than the all nighters I was pulling as recently as a year ago.  It allows me to do some things in the quiet and dark hours of early morning.  But I can still leave my apartment easily and run errands at four or five a.m. before the crowds get too bad just like I could at midnight or one a.m.  Usually by four a.m. about the only people on the streets are people reporting in for early morning work and city employees.  In the middle of the night it’s mostly eccentrics even odder then myself and the police.  And if I want to get some restaurant food without fighting the crowds, the middle of the afternoon suits me as well as the middle of the night did even as recent as three years ago.

I have settled and stabled more in my late thirties than at any time in my life.  And this blog is starting to attract better than ever audiences, at least on the days I write.  I’ve had at least four days since January 1st when I drew over one hundred visitors for one day.  My first such one hundred plus visitor day was I think last year.  I don’t know if the search engines are starting to pick me up more, more people are interested in mental health issues, or if the persistence is starting to pay off, etc.  But I am getting pretty decent visits now, at least decent for my standards.  When May arrives I will have been doing this blog on a regular basis for six years.  I still have most of my posts from these six years online and on this site.  I should go through them one of these days and see what I can discard and what I should keep so to make my blog more easy to navigate.  I should also take some time to compare and contrast my writings and moods now to those early years.

I have done blogging for six years now.  The longest I ever held a “real job” was four years when I worked as a janitor at the courthouse from 2008 to 2012.  This blog is the most satisfying work I have done in my entire life even if it is the worst paying.  With what I have spent to promote the blog and register my website, I still haven’t made a profit even after six years.  Yet I really don’t care if I do.  Yes, it would be cool to make some more money from my writing.  I wouldn’t refuse it.  But this is more a community service or labor of love than anything.  Being a parent pays nothing but it’s the most influential and important job any person can have.  Just because work doesn’t make money doesn’t mean someone isn’t getting something of value from it.  I may never turn a profit or get bigger audiences than I am now.  But that is alright with me.  I just hope to keep these postings online and in public access for years to come.  Maybe someone can get some benefit from these posts even after I am dead and forgotten.  Of course, if a cure for schizophrenia was discovered at some point in the future, then that would be a major blessing for myself and millions with similar problems.  It would mean I would have to go back to work probably.  But it would be a cool problem to have being cured of schizophrenia and having to find work again.  I wonder if people will still be hiring experienced writers and bloggers by then.

Updates and Random Philosophy on Living

Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days.  We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold.  Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary.  So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon.  I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days.  I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am.  My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years.  It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things.  Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long.  Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either.  It is coming along though.

One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day.  About ten of us went to her party.  It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other.  It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately.  I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing.  So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes.  One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods.  The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.

It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now.  I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech.  They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school.  My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely.  As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years.  And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech.  I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it.  I call their bluff on that.  I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.

I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs.  Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns.  My parents were not amused by that.  Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy.  And twenty years isn’t that long.  It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood.  The world has changed that much.

Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm.  Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities.  Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet.  Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily.  It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years.  Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced.  It can also justify some truly evil actions.  Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets.  It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world.  And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others.  Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.

Changes are a constant of human existence.  Changes even in nature are constant too.  With human existence, change will continue to come.  In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations.  These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not.  We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did.  The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past.  Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history.  This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.

Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime.  Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life.  I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook.  Give it time.  Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually.  It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices.  Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s.  My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.

For many this is true, at least in USA.  Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances.  At least not yet.  We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago.  In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology.  Of course there are going to be conflicts.  We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want.  Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years.  No wonder people are stressed.  We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want.  We are in transition.  And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows.  Stay tuned.  Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.