Arm Chair Philosophy During Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving week by myself.  I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents.  I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone.  I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college.  I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.

This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone.  Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on.  I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school.  It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after.  I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment.  Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state.  But I have a few weeks to figure that out.  It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere.  This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.

Starting to sleep less again.  But I’m not staying up all night either.  I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am.  I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours.  I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am.  I have been feeling quite stable lately too.  I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown.  First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.

In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much.  I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time.  Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone.  I don’t like socializing in person much anymore.  I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness.  I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.

Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest.  I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both.  I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting.  I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished.  I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver.  It’s like I expect things to not work anymore.  I’m probably suffering from apathy too.  I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore.  I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.

I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work.  I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names.  I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore.  I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before.  But nothing changes for the better.  The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts.  Yet no one wants to talk about these.  But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion.  I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.

For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren.  Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did.  I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum?  There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.

I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore.  Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else.  They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses.  But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife.  Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries.  Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later.  Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.

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Early Thanksgiving and Changes

Hosted my parents for an early Thanksgiving celebration last Sunday.  They brought the food and I provided the place.  They spent most of the day here.  I also received a stationary exercise bike from them.  Since they are moving to a suburb and are getting rid of some of the things they have no need for now, I got an exercise bike and a couple desk chairs from them.  Used the exercise bike a few times already.  It’s good to be exercising regularly again.  I had fallen out of the daily exercise habit after my back started flaring up a few months ago.  I was pleasantly surprised that peddling on a stationary bike doesn’t hurt my back like walking does.  Used to be most of my exercise was walking in the park or old downtown.  I would usually walk the hallways in my apartment complex when it was too icy or cold to walk outside.  But I’m starting to feel more decent after only a few days of regular exercise again.

While I enjoyed hosting my parents for Thanksgiving, it was also a bittersweet gathering.  That was the last time I get to see them when they are living nearby.  Even as much as I don’t like driving, I could still get in my car and be at their house in less than two hours.  But now that they are moving I won’t be getting to see them on a whim.  At least until I find a low income place that’s not in a tough neighborhood.  I may have to find a place in a small town nearby if the places in the city and the suburbs are too questionable.  I have been lucky to have had the good luck with low income housing that I have experienced in the last twelve years.  I’ve been fortunate to have good managers who will quickly and decisively deal with people who don’t pay the rent or are troublemakers.  I don’t have any true complaints about my complex.  I can be left alone when I want to be.  I can socialize when I want to.  And most people don’t give me problems and I try to avoid being a problem for others.  It’s seemed to work or I wouldn’t still be here after twelve years.  The only place I’ve lived in longer than my current apartment is my childhood home.

I haven’t bee out much for the last few days.  I guess I’m still adapting to my parents moving to be near my brother and his family.  I hope to be joining them eventually.  But right now I probably won’t be making any moves, at least not until the end of winter.

Thoughts on Mental Illness Treatment Side Effects

I’ve been sleeping more than I would prefer lately.  But I have found over the years if I want to sleep more than normal, there is usually a good reason for it.  I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it what is says it needs more often.  Learning to live with mental illness is mainly a trial and error kind of thing.  It wasn’t learned immediately.  Sadly mental illness is one of those tests that is impossible to study for.  I had no idea what having schizophrenia meant when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago.  But then, there is no way I could have known just by reading some books and going to a psychiatrist.  Mental illness effects everything about a life it inflicts just by the nature of the illness.  And since the human brain is the most complex piece of biological machinery we have seen (at least unless we discover alien intelligences superior to our own), it is one of those we still don’t know much about.

One of the things that gives me hope, maybe not for myself so much as future generations afflicted with mental illness problems, is that we are learning more about the human brain every day.  I don’t know if I’ll live to see the fruition of much of this research, but I am encouraged that there is now a push to learn this and see if we can design better treatments with fewer side effects.  As much as I am appreciative of what my anti psych treatment has done for my mental state, there has been a price I had and am still having to pay for this stability.

One of the side effects of my psych treatments is that I gained a lot of weight over the years.  I won’t go into exact numbers but I will say I weigh at least one hundred pounds more than I did when I was first diagnosed.  Yet, I was for all purposes not functioning when I was diagnosed.  I was having mental breakdowns two to three times a week, I could sleep only a couple hours a night, I wanted to spend all my time alone and just avoid people, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even read a single page of a book.  I guess my options were I could keep my physical health but be completely dysfunctional mentally or I could regain my mental stability but have a weakened body because of it.  Not optimal choices by any means.  But I’m glad I opted for the better mental health.  Otherwise I’d probably be dead or in prison.

Even though my physical health has declined over the years, in part because of the treatment’s side effects and the nature of the illness itself, I consider the price to be worth it.  At least for me the price of losing much of my physical vitality was worth the price of keeping myself together mentally.  I have also lost most interest in sex and socializing in person because of the illness.  I haven’t dated in at least ten years and I don’t like going to social functions much anymore.  But I guess there are always trade offs.  I’m actually glad that I was not as ruled by my hormones as most younger men.  It saved me much headache and heartache, especially in my late twenties and early thirties when it became obvious to me that I would never have a wife or children through no fault of my own.

I am not anti marriage or anti family.  I’m quite the opposite actually.  I see my brother and his wife and children as well as my cousins with their spouses and children and I see that, if done properly, family is the best thing that can happen to a person.  I think it really does have a calming effect on people, young men especially, and forces people to be more long term thinkers than they normally would.  I would have loved to had a wife and a couple kids with the picket fence and apple pie kind of life.  But with the mental illness and the hangups involved, I know I would make a lousy husband and father.  As it was I couldn’t manage a minimum wage job with my mental illness even though I was an honors graduate in high school.  So the next best thing is to write about my experiences with mental illness as my purpose for my work and be a good son to my parents and a good uncle to my brother’s kids.  I’m interested to see where this all leads.

Last Days of Summer

Spent some time outdoors enjoying one of the last few days of summer.  Also doing some cleaning in my apartment and rearranging furniture.  It’s now a little easier to maneuver around, especially in the living room.  Previously I had my computer desk in the middle of the room so I could watch ballgames and work on my computers at the same time.  I now have a better setup as I won’t be tripping over power cords and wires as much now that I’ve moved my desk to a corner.  I have my computers set up so I can watch them like a television from my recliner.  I moved my couch so I watch tv from the couch.  Previously I had used my recliner for everything.  I use my regular tv mainly for play station games and live ballgames.  Playoff baseball starts in a couple weeks and my Rockies have a shot of making the playoffs again this fall.  We lost out in the first round last year.

After three months of changed eating patterns I think I’m seeing some positive differences.  I am actually wanting to be active now rather than just spend entire days reading online articles or books.  I socialize more often.  I make it a point to now chat with other tenants at least three times a week.  I rarely stay awake all night anymore.  I am not as paranoid and anxious about my neighbors as I was this spring.  I have fewer aches and pains.  I still get winded sometimes when moving heavy furniture but I recover faster now.  I still sometimes get stiff after sleeping, but it usually takes only a couple minutes of sitting up to be back to normal.  And my clothing fits better.

Previously, from spring 2014 to summer 2015 I had lost slightly over 70 pounds in that time.  I stagnated for a few months and then I had my car accident in fall 2015.  After that I gained it all back.  Oddly it took over two years to gain it all back, so it took longer to gain it than it did to lose it in the first place.  I don’t really have any set goals as of right now.

I still sleep more than I would like.  But so far it has helped me from having relapses.  This has been a more pleasant than usual summer.  Now the leaves are beginning to change and the weather will start cooling off any day.  In Nebraska we usually get our first frost in mid October, so in three to four weeks if the averages hold out.  I really don’t want to change much of my routine as it seems to be working.  Sure I would like to travel more, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Easing Into Fall and Breaking Out of a Depression

Been rainy and cool the last few days.  Haven’t really gone anywhere over the Labor Day weekend.  Pretty much slept in, listened to podcasts, and talked to family a little.  I think my bouts of irritability and paranoia have passed.  Was having some problems with those for a couple weeks.  I find that sleeping more and avoiding rude people helps me.  So does eating healthier.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost but I am down one full shirt size since the middle of June.  And I’m not doing much besides eating more protein, severely limiting carbs and sugars, and lifting weights three times per week.

Overall I think I’m coming out of my traditional late summer depression.  It helps that the weather is cooler.  I always enjoyed cooler weather.  From this point of the year until early April I really don’t feel much pressure to socialize if I don’t want to.  Sometimes in summers past my friends and family would want to do things like go camping, go to baseball games, go fishing, or go to the park.  Sometimes I wouldn’t want to go but I’d force myself to in an attempt to break out of the depression I was in.  More often than not I did break out of it, at least for the rest of that day.  I would be glad I went out with them afterward but I would, unfortunately, be a little resentful when first asked out.  But I did make some good memories in the process even when all I wanted to do was stay home and brood.

I’m enjoying the cooler weather and the rain.  Sometimes during these rainy days, I’ll bring up some jazz music on youtube and just relax.  I like to read to jazz and blues music.  Listened to a lot of Miles Davis, Muddy Watters, and John Lee Hooker over the years while reading.  Cooler and overcast weather puts me in the mood to think, read, and write.  I do enjoy this kind of weather.

Sleep and Warding off Depression

Been quite rainy and overcast the last few days.  I do enjoy this kind of weather, especially as a break from the dry heat that is typical of late August and early September.    This kind of weather seems to a good excuse to pull up a blanket while sitting in my recliner and reading a book.

Still sleeping more than usual.  But this time it’s not that I’m awake all night and then I sleep all day like I had in the past.  As it is now, I’ll usually sleep five hours in the night, wake at sunrise, fall asleep after being awake for a couple hours and sleep until noon, be awake for a few hours, nap a little in the late afternoon, and then start the cycle all over again.  It does make it tougher to accomplish errands and daytime tasks, but I still feel pretty good over all.

Not only have I been sleeping more, I’ve been sleeping deeper.  I sometimes wake up disoriented and not even aware I fell asleep.  I dream more too.  Fortunately most of my dreams are either halfway pleasant or just make no sense but aren’t scary.  I used to get real bad nightmares in my early and twenties where I’d wake up in a startled panic.  Haven’t had one of those in years.  It’s a gradual process enacting positive changes.  But I’m glad that problems can changes and that we can adapt.  I used to consider naps a punishment, but sometimes a good nap can be the highlight of my afternoon.

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.