Graduation and Optimism During Times of Great Change

It is that time of year again, graduations and the end of the school year.  As it’s been chillier and damper then usual this spring, it doesn’t feel like early May yet.  It still feels like early April to me.  This year will mark twenty years since I graduated high school and fifteen since I graduated from college.  My class is having their twenty year reunion this summer.  As I have a family reunion out of state during the same weekend, I won’t be able to do both.  Haven’t decided which one I’m going to yet.  I haven’t been to any of my class reunions besides the five year.

I guess I just don’t have much in common with some of my old classmates or people in my childhood hometown.  Sure I had cool friends and enjoyed school activities like playing football and doing speech.  Yet I never felt like I really fit in back during my younger days.  Could have had problems with paranoia even as a child.  It also didn’t help that I spent the last two years of high school with a developing mental illness and not seeking help for it.  But we didn’t know back then.  We didn’t have the information easily available to us twenty years ago, certainly not like now.  I definately loved college, in part because I was seeking help and getting regular treatments.

I am trying to get out of the habit of offering recent graduates advice other than “stay flexible.”  I don’t tell anyone what career fields to look into anymore.  For beginners, we don’t know what jobs will be in demand in ten years anymore.  Many people can’t afford even going to state university without going into heavy debt anymore.  I’m glad I had good scholarships in college and got help from home.  I graduated debt free and that has saved my hide more than once.

It’s sad that so many people have crushing debts from school before they even begin a career.  I have far too many friends struggling with student debts even in their thirties.  And it’s absolutely asinine and unforgivable that student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.  I don’t think college is viable for most kids anymore simply because of how out of control the costs have become.  An eighteen year old right out of high school would be better off doing an apprenticeship, going to trade school, or joining the military in most cases it seems.  Some kids might be better off moving overseas and looking for work in East Asia or Europe anymore.  A college friend of mine teaches high school in Netherlands and absolutely loves it as far as I can tell.  A cousin of mine lived in Japan for three years while her husband was stationed over there in the military.  It might not be such a bad idea.  National borders mean less now than they did even twenty years ago.

I try not to offer advice, not because I don’t care.  It’s because we no longer know what the future holds, at least not in terms of in demand careers.  I blog on a regular basis yet that was in it’s early days when I was in high school and college.  Youtube or social media didn’t exist when I was in high school.  Amazon was just getting started in the 1990s.  And of course smart phones didn’t exist and AI was nowhere near as good as it is now.  Renewable energy tech like wind and solar are becoming more affordable and in many cases now competitive with old style fossil fuels.  That wasn’t the case even fifteen years ago.  While many older jobs are definitely going away or getting drastically reduced, there are likely going to be others taking their place.  What if instead of economic Armageddon we were actually heading for one of the biggest industrial and economic booms in history?  What if instead of ecological collapse we solved the problems of air and water pollution?  We have people working on those problems, and many others as I write this.  I once read that in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, more self made millionaires were made in that decade than in any other before that.  Yet we often think it was a hellish time.  For many people, it was. Yet for others, it was a time of opportunity as well.

It seems to me that during times of distress and upheaval (like we are living now) there are also opportunities as well.  I may be mentally ill, but I also have an outlet to talk about it and hopefully offer help others that I didn’t have in my younger years.  I have pretty decent treatments when had I grown up in my grandmother’s generation I would have spent the rest of my life in an institution or prison.  Sure I have gained a lot of weight over the course of this illness and my physical health has declined, yet I still have a sharp mind and am stable in spite the illness.  Overall I’m pretty happy.  Maybe not all the time, but then no one is continually blissful at all times anymore than people are always physically healthy.  I doubt I would have ever become a blogger if I didn’t become mentally ill.

 

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Nebraska Spring 2019 Floods / Dealing With Natural Disasters with Mental Illness

Been quite crazy in my home state of Nebraska the last several days.  Had real bad flooding over most of the state for the last five to six days because of all the melting snow and ice.  Since it had been one of the coldest winters in over thirty years, the soil was still frozen and all the melting ice and snow didn’t sink into the ground like it usually does.  So most rivers, creeks, lakes, etc were overflowing and spilling over.  Many smaller villages and towns, especially those close to rivers and lakes, have been evacuated.  Even bigger towns on the Platte and Missouri rivers had forced evacuations, namely Fremont, Norfolk, Columbus, etc.  The Air Force base at Omaha evacuated all their aircraft before all the runways were flooded.  Omaha, being on the Missouri, has bad flooding in some neighborhoods and bad ice jams on the river.  A nuclear power plant an hour drive south of Omaha was shut down for a while as a precaution.  I think it’s up and running again.  Dozens of bridges, levees, dams have broke and washed out.  Road damage is wide spread over the entire state, namely the eastern half.  Some ranchers lost their entire herds of cattle and pigs due to the floods in the east and the last blizzard in the western half of the state.  For a couple days, the main superhighway in our state, east and west bound Interstate 80, was closed from the city of Grand Island to the Wyoming border.  Many villages and towns have to boil their drinking water as a precaution now.  Many places lost power.  And several of the Native American reservations in the far north east part of the state were hit real bad.  Seems like most of the state is either soaked or just starting to dry out.

Fortunately my hometown avoided most of it, at least from what I can tell.  I haven’t left my house in the last three days.  Just decided to stay off the roads and out of the way.  We never lost power or water.  But I have just been staying near home and off the roads as a precaution.

Of course it has been stressful for me the last few days.  I have a few friends in Omaha and still some family in my childhood hometown.  As my parents now live in Oklahoma, I let them know right away I was alright.  Been sleeping more the last few days.  Managed to diffuse a couple potential breakdowns.  Been a little more irritable and short tempered than I would prefer.  I am hoping this mess dries out soon though the near term forecast doesn’t sound very hopeful as we’re supposed to get more rain over the next few days but it’s supposed to be more early spring like.  It does get old just staying home and playing the waiting game.  But not much else I can do right now.

Random Thought on an idle Friday afternoon

With it being a Friday, I am reminded of posts by friends of how much they love weekends and how much they hate their jobs. Maybe I got lucky by having a severe mental illness and being on disability. Perhaps I did, especially with how much I read about how people hate their jobs and their spouses. I also probably got lucky in that becoming disabled made me not marriage material. Yet, as it were, losing everything civilization told me to value made me fearless and optimistic. Once you lose everything, you are free to do anything it seems.

History of Humanity in Less than 100 words

Take biology and psychology that developed over many thousands of years in the Stone Age, throw in Bronze Age spirituality and religions, mix in legal, finance, and government institutions developed in the Renaissance, toss in jobs, consumerism, work ethic, and education developed in the Industrial Revolution, add mass media and instant communications of the early 21st century, and possibly add machine automation that will make the work force far smaller and resources far easier to get as icing on the cake. Stand back and watch mayhem and chaos ensue or work toward bringing about the Star Trek future.

Having Access to The World Without Leaving Home or Wearing Pants and Shoes

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My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids.  They seem to be adapting to suburb life well.  They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services.  And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard.  Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks.  But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at.  I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs.  I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself.  It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.

Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years.  I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice.  They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church.  My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s.  He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma.  I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.

I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away.  But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to.  I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now.  I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door.  Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too.  As I always had odd sizes.  Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny.  Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.

If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning.  I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer.  He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.

And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting.  I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off.  I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose.  The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine.  I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room.  I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT.  I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.

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Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers.  With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City.  Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find.  As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war.  I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.

Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past.  Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore.  There was an old song about having the world on a string.  I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet.  I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to.  I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.

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Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors.  But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born.  All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000.  Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time.  Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago.  I have hope.  Everyone else should too.

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.

Love, Romance, and Valentine’s Day With A Mental Illness

Today, February 14, is Valentine’s Day.  I know for some people it’s a reason to buy gifts, go out for dinners, and be romantic.  Others are more depressed about not being in a romantic relationship and feeling left out.  But since it is a day the world at large takes some time and makes efforts to reflect on the value of romantic love, it is a good an opportunity as any to reflect back on my experiences with romance, dating, and love as a man with schizophrenia.

I am currently unmarried and not in a romantic relationship of any kind.  At this point in my life I am content and happy with this setup.  This wasn’t always the case though.  As a teenage male, I had deeper feelings than many people and often showed my emotions more than many people thought appropriate, especially for a boy.  When I was ten years old I broke down crying over a girl I was sweet on who publicly turned me down.  It made matters worse in that it was at a school sponsored event attended by my parents.  Both my parents made it a point to tell me off in public for crying and being emotional.  They told me off again when we got home that night.  I never forgot that.  It was also the first time in my life I got my heart broken over a girl.  Of course it wasn’t the last.  Fortunately it did begin to steel my resolve in that yes it hurts getting rejected and shamed in public, but I survived and became stronger because of it.

I had my heart broke again a couple more times in early puberty by being rejected by girls I was interested in spending time with over the next two years.  Didn’t sting as bad as the first one but they did make me more resilient with each rejection.

When I was thirteen, I met the girl who would ultimately become my best friend in high school.  We hung out a lot, spent time at each other’s houses, traded books and magazines like some kids traded baseball cards, played video games together, and generally did things that friends do together as teenagers.  She was home schooled until high school, so she didn’t have the same day to day experiences in junior high I did.  I was still being rejected by girls I liked over the next three years, but it got to where I just got numb to it and accepted it as a part of living.  Eventually after three years of friendship, I developed romantic feelings for her.  We went on several dates, nothing really more formal than just going to dances and the movies.  But we were never intimate or even affectionate besides the occasional hugs when one of us was feeling down and depressed.  We did kiss a few times.  As good as that felt, we both had an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t pursue a romantic relationship.  We just valued the friendship too much.  It was a short term painful decision but one in the long term turned out to be a brilliant move.

She moved out of state when we were eighteen.  I went off to college at age nineteen a more hopeless romantic than ever even though my mental health problems were beginning.  I had a couple slight crushes on a couple girls in my freshman class.  So much so that I didn’t recognize that there were at least two other girls who were sweet on me.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  I thought they were just pleasant and decent people to everyone they met.  There was a third girl who came flat out and told me she had feelings for me that weren’t typical friendship but of a romantic nature.  But I just didn’t feel the same way.  So I explained to her as carefully, tactfully, and honestly as I could that I didn’t feel the same way.  And I refused to insult her by acting like I had feelings for her when I didn’t just so I could have a steady date.  Acting like you have feelings for someone when you don’t just to be in a relationship or not to hurt their feelings is actually a cruel thing to do, especially long term.  Turns out that one girl I had feelings for dated my best friend for a few weeks.  That put a damper on my feelings for her though I never forgot her.

Near the end of my freshman year, I met my college sweetheart and started my only really hardcore romantic relationship.  We had some great times, had some arguments (like all dating couples), broke up and got back together a couple times, over the course of the next two years.  I eventually decided to call off the dating relationship shortly before 9/11 because I could tell my mental illness wasn’t going well with the highs and lows of the dating relationship.  For the last three years of college I didn’t date at all.  I was polite and decent to everyone I met, had lots of acquaintances I could join study groups with or go to sporting events on campus, but I had only a handful of extremely close friends whom I could do and tell everything to.

After I graduated from college I went back home because, like many college graduates, I didn’t have a job lined up by the time I graduated.  I felt embarrassed by this at the time but I would eventually find out I wasn’t alone and this was the new normal.  After a few months of working a dead end job, I had enough of my childhood hometown.  I realized my career was going nowhere, all my old friends moved away, and I had no prospects for friends or a career in my location.  I also didn’t have enough money to move away on my own.  I talked to my parents about moving to a larger town.  I was immediately shot down because they wouldn’t help me if I didn’t have a job offer in another town.  And I previously had several job interviews where I was told they would have hired me if I was local.  Made me very angry.  I couldn’t relocate because I had no job and I was getting rejected for jobs because I didn’t live nearby.

Finally in February 2005, I lied to my parents about a job offer I had in a town that was only a couple hours away from them but had decent opportunities, a state university, and much better health care.  I convinced them to help me move and pay for the deposit on a small apartment.  It was a cheap place I could live in as I had a few months of living expenses saved up so I could find a job.  It was the first time in my entire life I lied for personal gain rather than protection or privacy reasons.  I felt guilty that it had to be that way at the time.  But I am so glad I did looking back on it years later.  Sometimes breaking the rules and disregarding authority has to be done to do the right thing.  Life isn’t as black and white and cut and dry as far too many people make it to be.

For the first couple weeks I was out several hours every day giving my resume and filling out applications to places that would pay me enough to meet my living expenses.  I also applied to the local college to take master’s degree classes.  I had three job offers and a new job within the first three weeks in my new town, compared to only one in my childhood hometown in the several months I was back home.  Location is key, my friends.  You can have all the qualifications there are, yet if you are in a location that doesn’t suit those skills, you have to relocate.  There are no two ways about it.

I still occasionally asked girls out but still got rejected.  I finally had a long distance relationship that went quite well for several months.  I surprised her by driving to her hometown on Valentine’s Day 2006.  I had just gotten offered a decent job after I lost my job at the college because of my bad grades, which were because of my mental illness really beating me up.  The surprise was on me because she had to work a double shift that day.  I had to wait several hours before she got home.  Fortunately her mother took pity on me and kept me company until she got off work.  That was a whirlwind of a relationship.  We called it off that summer because we could tell it would never evolve into a marriage.  We just had different priorities, values, and interests to make a marriage work.  It stung at the time but I’m glad it ended before we got married.

In 2008 I qualified for disability insurance.  I had my safety net finally.  My life settled down and I didn’t have the highs and lows I did in previous years.  I also came to the conclusion I was better off without trying to date or be in a relationship.  I am definitely not anti marriage or anti love.  I just know with my mental illness, my personality, my values, etc. I would make a lousy boyfriend and husband.  I would make a lousy father too and I would feel guilty if I had children who became mentally ill because they inherited it from me.  As far as being lonely, that’s why I keep in contact with old friends and stay on good terms with family.  I have a much better relationship with my mother and father now in my late thirties than I ever did at any point in my life.  Like many children I regarded my parents like superheroes when I was six, clueless buffoons when I was twelve, would be fascist dictators at age seventeen I wanted to be free from, wise counsel and backups at age twenty eight, and now more like myself and close friends now that I am age thirty eight.  It’s been a long and strange journey these thirty eight years as a human and these twenty plus as being a man with mental illness.

Even though I have had a mental illness since my teenage years, and was eccentric my entire life, I was still interested in romance and the love of a good woman.  Sometimes I had that, many times I didn’t.  And as I have aged I have made my peace with what went on in the past.  I accept that I can’t change what went on.  I also wouldn’t change it if I had that power.  I am grateful for my experiences with romance, love, and dating while having a mental illness.  It taught me much about myself, mental illness, human nature, and life.  I wouldn’t trade any of it.  At this point in my life I am content to remain unattached.  I don’t know if this will always be the case and I don’t have to know.  I know not what tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or even years from now will bring or how I will develop.  I’m just staying open to whatever happens and comes my way.