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.

Fear of People and Socializing

Staying home for the most part these days.  I have developed a phobia of people and being out in public.  A few weeks ago I was going to run some errands in my car.  Unfortunately I had a panic attack in my car before I left the parking lot of my apartment.  I haven’t driven since.  I go out to run my car once a week but I am too scared to drive anymore.  I am also scared of people in general too.

I think this phobia developed over the last several months because almost everyone I was dealing with was in irritable and foul moods all the time.  And any time I tried to tell some good news or try to cheer anyone up, I am usually met with silence.  Even my friends are almost always in foul moods anymore.  I try to cheer them up, but it doesn’t work.  About the only person I talk to anymore who isn’t always depressed or angry is my mother.

I don’t associate with my neighbors anymore.  They are always angry, irritable, and petty. My landlord wants to get some activities going to get people more involved and perhaps alleviate some of the anger and boredom.  Good luck.  I won’t be participating.  I am burned out on people.

Trying to talk to friends doesn’t help.  They too are always angry and depressed.  Recently the most optimistic friend I had has turned into a bitter man.  He always complains about how stupid his students are and how things were so much better in the past.  And it irritates me.  I guess I’m still hurt and angry by how much my elders griped and moaned about my classmates and myself when we were kids back in the 1980s and 1990s.  And it angers and saddens me to see how much people in my age bracket are turning on their own kids.  We were those “damn kids” back in the 1990s and we hated being painted with a broad brush and stereotypes back then. Yet here you are, now that you have kids of your own, a few gray hairs, debts up to your eyeballs, jobs you hate, etc. and you have the gall to pull the same b.s. on the younger generations that was pulled on us?  Hypocrites!  Why do people even have kids if all they are going to do is rip on them and hate them?

It because of people always wanting to gripe and fight that I have dropped out of society. I rarely talk to even my tech enthusiast groups.  They have gotten to fighting among themselves too.  I swear we have, at least my age bracket, forgotten the basic rules of civil behavior that should have become automatic in kindergarten.  And the elders I deal with are often worse.  I hate what has happen to people.  I hope they grow out of it.

I guess it’s a good thing I had to learn how to be on my own even as a child.  I learned even before I got out of grade school that no one was going to care about my problems or me for that matter.  No one shed any tears when I got bullied at school.  No one cared I was regarded as an underachiever because I never got straight A’s in school.  It doesn’t matter that no employer or even college asked to see my high school grades.   And no one cared when I lost any shot at a career, marriage, or normal life because of schizophrenia.

Not even the doctor who diagnosed me told me how bad this could be.  When I was first diagnosed at age twenty I wasn’t even told it was a disability.  I spent six years banging my head against the wall fighting through school and numerous failed jobs before admitting defeat.  And even then it took two years to qualify for disability.  As many cuts to the system and roadblocks as there are anymore, I don’t think I could qualify now in 2019.  I lost a significant amount of social security money because, had I applied before my 22nd birthday, I could have been counted under my parents’ earnings and not my own.  And my dad was a dentist and my mom was a nurse, so I would have been making much more than I am now.  In this case, it didn’t pay to try to do the moral and honorable thing.  I should have quit college and applied for disability as soon as I was diagnosed.  It would have saved me years of heartache and struggle.  If it weren’t for the friends I made in college, it would have been a waste (at least in my case).  But since I didn’t have many friends growing up in the village that I did, maybe college kept me from becoming a complete misanthrope.

It hurts seeing so many people angry and irritable and depressed all the time.  It has taken a toll on both my mental and physical health.  I don’t want to leave my apartment anymore, not even for doctors’ appointments.  My psych doctor knows about my problems but doesn’t want to do teleconferences for my appointments.  I just don’t feel safe out of my apartment anymore.  Anytime anyone comes to me to talk about anything it’s just to complain, with the exception of delivery guys and my cleaning lady.  Kind of sad that the only enriching and encouraging conversation I get anymore is from people that I pay to do something for me.  Maybe I should PayPal all my friends money once a week to make them be optimistic and encouraging.  Because of people always being so irritable and negative, I skipped my class reunion and family reunion.  I am just too burned out to deal with anyone’s problems but my own.  I am burned out.  I no longer want to deal with negativity.  My own problems are bad enough.  And I will continue to be a hermit until I get some positive vibes off my family and friends again.  Until then, I’m dropping out of society.

Nostalgia: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Been spending most of my time alone the last several days.  And I’m actually quite happy with this arrangement.  And why not?  Most of my friends are going through the mid life crisis deals as my friends are in the mid thirties to early forties range.  I have a college friend who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago who’s only a year or two older than I am.  Most of my friends are struggling with debts and dead end careers, so they are constantly on edge about money.  I’ve had friends suffer through divorces.  I have a cousin whose son was diagnosed on the autism scale last year.  My best friend from my teenage years lost her mother to cancer two years ago.  Even in myself I don’t have as much get up and go as I did even three years ago.  But I am in my late 30s.  I’ll be 40 next summer yet I don’t dread it.  I don’t dread aging as much as most of my friends.  Most people think I’m weird  or lying when I say I actually look forward to being a wise elder.  I’m not lying or weird.  I’m just ahead of the curve and no longer fearing the inevitable.

I admit I don’t have much nostalgia.  I don’t long for the “good ol’ days” because, well, the good old days kinda sucked in many ways.  When exactly were the good old days?  Was it back in the 1990s when President Clinton was screwing his interns, computers occupied entire desks instead of fitting in shirt pockets, and the music of Tupac and Marilyn Manson were going to be the death of Western Civilization?  Was it back in the 1950s when using the n word was okay but Lucille Ball couldn’t say pregnant on network television and the threat of nuclear war was real?  “Better dead than red” people said back in those days.  And people were worried about the corrupting influence of rock and roll music.  Or was it in the Old West when boom towns like Dodge City and Tombstone were far more violent and lawless than any modern slum, women couldn’t vote, and bounty hunters got paid for Native American scalps?  Or was it in the Stone Age when everyone ate fresh and natural food, drank clean water, breathed unpolluted air, had no laws, no villages, half of children died before adulthood, and writing didn’t exist.  Even the 2010s will be considered the good old days in twenty years by nostalgic fools.  Nostalgia is a desert mirage.  It is imagined.  It isn’t real.  I haven’t fallen victim to nostalgia even though I’m on the door step of 40.  Hopefully I never fall victim to nostalgia.

I definitely never want to be one of these bitter and angry old men who complain about the kids.  Let’s get some thing real clear: every generation of “lousy kids” was supposed to be the death of civilization.  And it never happened.  If anything, most generations built upon what previous generations did and left science and humanitarian efforts further along than when they started.  I have zero patience for people who complain about young people.  Elders were complaining about how stupid and incompetent my classmates and myself were even when were in grade school in the 1980s.  I have never forgotten how hurtful and unfair that was.  I never will.  And for that reason I will never pull that kind of crap on people younger than me.  And it burns me to see people my age complaining about the kids coming up now.  The kids are not more unruly or weaker now than in the past.  The only thing kids have ever been guilty of is making old codgers realize that they will someday become irrelevant, they will someday die, and they will someday be forgotten.  Kids make old people uncomfortable because kids make elders confront their own hypocrisy, stupidity, and that they were too scared or lazy to try to chase their dreams.

I’m now seeing many of my cohorts becoming bitter and resentful about the bad decisions they made in their teens and twenties.  You should have left that dead end job and started your own business or moved to a different city.  Yeah, you should have majored in STEM or went to trade school instead of majoring in humanities or general business.  Maybe  you should have paid off your credit cards before they become unmanageable.  You shouldn’t have spent your teens and twenties partying, drugging, and having sex like there would be no price to pay.  You shouldn’t have put up with abusive boyfriends or manipulative girlfriends.  You should have called your mom more often.  Yeah, you shouldn’t have cut ties with your siblings.  You should have road tripped and traveled to foreign countries while you still had good health.  You should have gone to seen your favorite musician the night they performed in your hometown.  You shouldn’t have ignored that geeky girl or boy in your high school history class in favor of the school bully or queen bee.  I could go on.  But there are no do overs.  Learn and move on.  Quit romanticizing a past that never existed.  Learn from your bad decisions and be glad for the good decisions you did make.

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.

Popular Sucks

Have felt quite decent the last several days.  I have been getting adequate sleep and leaving my apartment for longer periods of time.  I’m keeping my apartment less cluttered lately.  It doesn’t take my cleaning person as long to do her job these days.  Maybe after several months of adjustments and regular maintenance I’m getting on top of hanging issues.  I haven’t had much for flare ups or anxiety for over a week now.  First time in months I can claim that.

I think I don’t feel much for anxiety or depression anymore is for a handful of reasons.  For one, if I don’t feel like socializing I don’t do it.  I don’t socialize unless I want to.  Granted it means sometimes going entire days without talking to anyone.  Which is alright with me.  Some of my happiest times came when I was alone and allowed to read, write, and research answers to my questions without input from anyone else.  And I no longer feel guilty for not wanting to socialize.  Sometimes I will let the phone ring if I’m not in the mood to talk.  Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to interrupt my tasks to listen to a sales pitch, or take a phone survey, or listen to my friends complain about how much their jobs suck, or about something my retired parents heard from one of their neighbors or saw on tv.

Sometimes I just don’t want to be interrupted.  And most of the time mundane crap like talking about the weather, politics, the latest episode of Game of Thrones or The Kardashians, how work is going, or how my favorite sports teams are on a losing streak doesn’t interest me much. Yet most people I know want to talk about these things. Want to talk about it, okay:  The weather is cloudy and humid.  Politicians can’t solve technical and social problems and aren’t the gods mass media and party members make them to be and never were.  Game of Thrones really laid an egg on their farewell season and angered millions of fans all over the world, including many of my closest friends.  The Kardashians are famous just for being rich, pretty, and famous. Come back when they invent nuclear fusion or safe artificial super intelligence.  Most people hate their jobs and work them only for the money (which isn’t that good in most cases anyway). My Huskers have had three losing seasons in the last four years but hopefully the young hotshot we have as a coach can get us winning again and the Rockies are barely breaking even and probably won’t win the pennant.  I discussed all of that in less than a minute.  No need to rehash it.  Let’s move on.

Of course this doesn’t make me popular with my neighbors or family.  Then I’ve never been popular.  Popular is lowest common denominator.  Popular is mundane.  Popular doesn’t change the world for the better.  Popular doesn’t catch the attention.  Popular isn’t thought provoking.  Popular is boring.  Popular sucks because it stands for nothing, has no feeling, has no courage, has no magic, and inspires no one to their highest nature and capacities.  I don’t care about popular.  I care about making people think.  And if it makes my friends, family, readers, critics, etc. angry and uncomfortable, so be it.  I’d rather be persecuted for being beneficial to people than honored for catering to the base nature of our humanity.

Life After Paid Employment

I am feeling extra creative today.  So here is a second blog entry.  Consider it like a buy one, get one free kind of day.  I haven’t held regular paid employment since spring 2012.  I decided to get out of the regular work life because I could tell it is beginning to take it’s toll on my stability.  It also didn’t help that the more I worked, the more disability benefits I lost and the more I paid in rent.  I did the math back then and realize for every dollar I made in labor, I lost over 70 cents in reduced benefits, increased rent, taxes, etc.  Tell me where the incentive to get off disability is.  There isn’t any.  Besides, my schizophrenia makes holding a forty hour per week job and dealing with workplace politics impossible.  It was becoming more trouble than it was worth.

After I left my last regular job, I got serious about blogging.  I had been writing regularly since I was in college but decided to focus my energies on blogging about mental illness.  I wrote a couple poetry books and rough drafts for a couple novels in addition to keeping extensive journals.  Unfortunately I don’t have most of my original writings anymore.  In my paranoid state I feared that others would see my personal writings and hold them against me.  That’s why I got rid of most my journals and poetry from my twenties and early thirties.  I don’t even self publish my poetry anymore.  I haven’t even written a poem in three years, instead focusing on the blog for the time being.

Even though I haven’t written poems or novel drafts for a few years doesn’t mean I have given up on those genres.  I still occasionally read poetry.  I haven’t read much fiction outside of Issac Asimov, Corey Doctorow, and H.P. Lovecraft in a few years.  I have concentrated on science and tech books instead.  I imagine in a few years something else will catch my mind’s eyes and I’ll dive into that.

I used to make up stories all the time as a kid.  It’s too bad I never wrote any of them down.  I used to spend hours on end roaming my back yard and the alley ways of my hometown just making up stories and thinking in my childhood.  It was something I wanted to do and even needed to do for myself.  As much as I loved learning and exercising my mind in school as a child, school by itself didn’t satisfy my appetite for learning and mental stimulation.  It only served as an appetizer I suppose.  It made me want to learn more on my own.  And fortunately I lived in an area that allowed me to explore on my own and had parents who were willing to tolerate that I desired so much time alone to learn and think. I dare say that thinking is my favorite pastime.  And of course good luck doing that at a regular forty hour per week job unless you work at a think tank or as a scholar.

I suppose that is what I am, an independent scholar.  I have always been that.  Even as a little child I hated being told what to think.  I always wanted to know.  I wanted to read the original works of literature of philosophers and scholars.  I didn’t just want to take someone else’s word for it.  Sure it got me into trouble over the years with authority figures, but I just couldn’t just go along to get along and blindly accept what I was told.  I never have been able to just shut off my mind and go on cruise control.  It has gotten me into trouble at jobs and at school, but it made my life more interesting.  It made me a better friend to others as well.

Overall I know with my mental illness I couldn’t hold a regular job for long without breaking down.  I have been like this for my entire adult life.  Fortunately I have disability pension and Medicaid.  Without these I would probably be dead or at least in prison.  And what a waste either one would be.  I dread to think how many people over the ages had creativity and genius but it was lost because they were forced to spend their lives in conditions they couldn’t control.  I am sure many geniuses spent their entire lives as slaves or serfs or toiling in some job they couldn’t stand.  I am sure many people were never allowed to develop their talents because of the prejudices and social norms of their eras.  I only hope we continue to get better at finding people’s talents and allowing them to develop.  If we as individuals can’t or won’t help kids develop their skills and gifts, the least we as individuals and grown ups can do is get out of the way.