Thankfulness Despite Mental Illness

I’ve spent almost twenty years dealing with mental illness problems.  Even though I have now spent more than half my life dealing with these problems, I am still pretty happy and content with how my life turned out.  Sure I would be better off losing some weight or having more friends in my hometown, but overall I’m enjoying my life even though I have to deal with schizophrenia.  At least I enjoy it the 99 percent of the time that I’m not having problems with hallucinations, delusions, and excessive anxiety.  I think the older I have gotten, the more I have learned how to work around the illness.  I do have to avoid stressful people and situations.  I have to do most of my shopping either online or in early morning hours to avoid crowds.  I won’t have the high paying and prestigious career like my brother has.  I will never have a wife and kids or the big house in a good suburb.  But as I have aged and seen in my own self and others with mental illness, I could be a lot worse.  If I was born in 1920 instead of 1980, I probably would have been living permanently in a mental hospital or homeless.  That is why I am thankful that medications and social safety nets exist that didn’t exist even fifty years ago.  Some of the medications I’m on didn’t exist even ten years ago.

Even though I don’t have a lot of nearby friends and don’t make much money, I’m still pretty happy overall.  I have been able to pursue what makes me happy and content despite being on disability insurance and living in low income housing.  Happiness for me is talking with friends over the phone, or participating in the futurist groups I’m part of on Facebook, or just grilling cheap steaks and watching college football on chilly fall afternoons.  I am fortunate that I have simple tastes.  Even though both my parents were medical professionals and made good money, they didn’t spoil my brother and I.  We were expected to either have after school and summer jobs or be involved in school activities year round.  I wasn’t uncommon for me to play a football game on Friday nights and spend my Saturday afternoons working as a shelf stocker at a general store when I was in high school.  During the summers, my brother usually reported to work at a fast food place every morning by 4 am to provide spending money so he could get his engineering degree.  I didn’t understand why my parents expected so much out of us when we were growing, but now I do.  And I’m glad for it.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  If I were able to raise children, I would be the same way.

If anything, I am thankful for what I have even if it isn’t what it could have been.  I’m glad that I can write about my experiences.  I write for those who can’t speak for themselves and to let others with mental illness know that they are not alone and things can get better.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of time but things can become quite stable even with a mental illness.

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Optimism and Good News

Been spending more time inside lately.  We’re currently in the hottest parts of the summer.  So far I’m managing alright.  I think it helps that I’m getting enough sleep and keeping my mind occupied through computer games and educational programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  I had to get a new phone a few days ago after my old one quit working.  So far it’s doing everything I need done.

In spite spending so much time indoors and not socializing much outside of internet and phone, I’m still feeling pretty decent.  I’m feeling actually quite optimistic overall.  Watching science programs and programs about what is actually going right in civilization while avoiding the negativity and background noise can do that to even a hardened mentally ill person like myself.  I do find it tragic that the advances in science and humanitarian efforts aren’t given more publicity in the media.  I get it that mass media isn’t a public service and they have to draw and audience like every other business.  And nothing draws a human’s attention like fear and anxiety.  There is actually far more going on right than most people will ever know.

Last Christmas I did a piece on science and tech advances that happened just in 2016.  I’m going to do this again at the end of 2017.  I really don’t think people pay enough attention to what’s going on in the realms of science, tech, and humanitarian efforts.  I wonder how many people know that over 90 percent of people in Africa have access to cell phones.  Granted the same CNN article states that only 63 percent of people in Africa have access to piped water and only 30 percent to flushing toilets.  But both of those numbers are better than many people in the developed world thought they would be.  And this article was written in 2016.

When my parents were first married in the early 1970s, many people were worried about overpopulation and as a result my parents decided to have only two kids.  Fast forward 45 years and many countries, especially in the developed world, are actually experiencing decreasing populations.  USA would have the same problem if it wasn’t for many immigrants still wanting to come here.  The fears of overpopulation didn’t come to fruition because as people became more prosperous and better educated, they started having fewer kids and investing more in the one or two kids they did have.  The population is still growing, yes, but that is far more because people no longer die like flies than breed like rabbits.  Smallpox is eradicated and polio is all but eradicated.

There were similar fears about acid rain in the 1970s.  But we as a species, especially scientists and engineers, saw that this could become a problem eventually and we adapted.  As a result, the worst didn’t happen.  Right now there are fears about climate issues and what could happen within the next several decades.  But few people realize that air pollution has actually gone down in many countries and industrializing countries like China and India are going forward with non polluting energy sources now that the prices are more competitive with traditional fuel sources.  My country may have pulled out of the Paris Agreements, but that was my federal government and not individual peoples or state governments.  And in the USA, regardless of individual political beliefs, most people do not approve of the leadership our federal officials are offering.  So many state and local governments are taking it on themselves to develop non polluting energy sources.  I may live in a state where many people aren’t sold on the sciences being climate changes but that doesn’t stop people from putting up wind generators and solar panels.  In my own family, my parents have been using solar panels since the 1980s.  Many people don’t know that the largest state for wind power generation is Texas, a traditionally oil rich state.  Just because a person may not be sold on the hard science doesn’t mean they can’t or aren’t doing their parts to bring about less toxic energies and use less fuel.  Can you imagine how bad pollution and oil issues would be if we had the same cars from the 60s and 70s?  When my father was in the military, he had a street racer car that got less than 9 miles to the gallon in gas.  Pickup trucks now get much better than that, let alone family sedans or smaller cars.  My dad said about his hot rod, “it would pass everything on the road besides a gas station.”  Science is saving our bacon right now, more so than governments or most other established large institutions.

I’m also encouraged by the prospects of private individuals and companies taking on space exploration.  We aren’t living my parents’ space race when it was just Russia and USA doing the work.  There are many things I am encouraged and optimistic about.  But I did not get this way getting information just from traditional sources.  I had to use search engines.  I had to go to science specific websites and journals.  I had to specifically look for the science information because most of it wasn’t being reported in traditional mass media.  But traditional mass media is in decline and will eventually break apart if they don’t adapt to the new realities.  And that doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.  I’m tired of hearing about what is going wrong all the time.  I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.  I want to know what’s going well and what we’re improving.  I have dig deeper than most people, but I am finding out some of what’s going right.  Maybe more research labs and universities should hire publicity firms to better promote what’s going on.  I think many people would be interested providing the information is presented in the right ways.

Drama Free Living

It’s been quite quiet for me this summer.  I haven’t had any flare ups or episodes.  I haven’t even heard my neighbors arguing for weeks.  Somedays I wonder if I even have neighbors it’s been so quiet in my complex.  About the only time I see any of my neighbors is when I leave my apartment to run errands.  I don’t sit outside too much anymore just because it’s been so hot.  Fortunately we have only another six to eight weeks of hot weather left.  But I have been enjoying the peace and quiet.  I also enjoy not having flare ups or dealing with stupid and rude people all the time.

I used to have to deal with a lot of drama at work and in some friendships.  I haven’t dated for several years  simply because the drama and ups and downs just got old.  Having schizophrenia while trying to date adds a whole another level of difficulty.  And I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I have enough problems as is.  I also had to cut negative people out of my life.  Sure it meant ending a few friendships and being real careful about who I let into my life.  And it also means much alone time.  But it’s alright because the peace and quiet is worth it.

Another thing that helps me is that I am debt free.  That is why I can live as a minimalist and not work.  I just live on my disability pension.  Right now I can budget it out that I don’t have to resort to credit cards to make it through the month.  I don’t have to take a thankless and stressful job because I don’t need the money.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest reason to work for someone else is the money.  Being an employee, especially in today’s ever shifting and toxic work environments, doesn’t seem to be much more than glorified serfdom.  Why should any employee give loyalty to a company when the job can be taken over by machines, outsourced overseas, or just given to a younger person for lower wages?  If you’re going to be an employee, it’s best to go to the highest bidder.  An employer won’t look out for you.  An employer doesn’t care about you either.  Neither do most of your coworkers, at least that is my experience.  A boss isn’t going to help you develop your career.  You are on your own on that one.  I can do this blog without getting paid for it because I don’t have to worry about income or paying off debts.  And I absolutely love doing this blog.  It doesn’t really seem like a job because it isn’t drudgery like I was used to in my working days.  It feels more like a hobby that evolved into a life mission.

Since I don’t have debts and am content to live a minimalist life, I am quite free to write about what needs to be written.  Life with a mental illness isn’t pretty much of the time.  It is lonely, it can be frightening, it can be long bouts of depression and sadness, and sometimes I have found myself mourning over the career and lifestyle that never was because of this illness.  But, having this illness made me resourceful and creative.  It also made me smarter.  It made me think about many things that most people never have to.  It made me ask questions that most people would never think to ask.

Right now I’m dealing with a stretch where I haven’t had any real drama for months.  It helps that I have been able to largely avoid toxic, negative, and stupid people.  That’s no small accomplishment living in tight quarters like I do.  I’m pretty content to just stay home much of the time anymore.  I have gotten to where I feel naked without a good internet connection.  I imagine that’s going to become more common in the next several years.  I’m just ahead of the curve.  And I don’t have to submit to a bad boss or bad coworkers or unreasonable customers to make money because I don’t need the money.  I can get by just on my disability pension because I don’t have debts or expensive tastes.  I won’t spend a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans or two hundred dollars on a pair of sneakers or buy a new iPhone every year or a different car every three years.  I am content with what I have.  I love being a minimalist.  And that has helped me create a life with little to no drama in spite my mental illness.

Lonely Weekends

I’m spending yet another weekend at home alone.  As far as I’m concerned, the weekends are the loneliness times for me.  When I was in college, the campus garage bands would put on concerts I’d go to every weekend.  A couple of those bands were pretty good.  Too bad youtube didn’t exist in those days.  They might have been discovered, like Justin Bieber.  When I moved to my current town, I would spend time with my cousin and her friends.  Sometimes we’d go to concerts.  Sometimes we’d have cookouts.  Sometimes we’d just chat or watch rented movies.  But after my cousin moved away, the group started to fall apart.  Eventually all of my local friends got married and moved away.

After that happened, I made a few elderly friends in my apartment complex.  I had good conversations with them.  They gave me a reason to leave my apartment several times a day.  Once they died, I was down to having no friends I could just have a cup of coffee with.  It didn’t help that many of the new people moving into my complex were kind of mean and temperamental people.

Once this started to happen, I just isolated.  And I started my current computer game addiction.  It helps pass the time and is kind of a brain builder, but it has done a toll on my social life.  I just can’t socialize with negative and rude people everyday.  That’s why I will never work in retail again.  And weekends are the worst because I used to do a great deal with friends on weekends.  When I wasn’t going to garage concerts on the weekends in college, I’d be having marathon trivia game sessions with my friends.  Those were fun times.  Too bad they didn’t last.  It has been a lonely stretch the last few years.  But the weekends are the worst.

The pains and joys of being a geek with mental illness

I still don’t socialize much.  But that’s because I don’t feel like I need to.  Some of my best friends I can chat with over Facebook or the phone.  Besides, all some people want to chat about are mundane things like the weather or pointless gossip.  Conversations without any real intelligent substance really weigh on me.  They sap my energy and often aggravate me.  And the longer I’ve been out of school, the worse it gets.  Sure there were quite a few people who, when I went to school, thought education was for losers and being ignorant was cool.  But, good grief, now that I’m an adult those people are in the vast majority.  I was always told that more wisdom came with age.  Not necessarily so.  I know people in their sixties and seventies who are less mature and intelligent than some junior high kids.  It’s tiring and sad to see stupidity and ignorance being championed in my culture.  I see it in my daily life and I see it when I log onto the internet or watch my tv: ignorance is praised and wisdom is condemned.

Was it always this way that smart people were ostracized?  Is it this way in other cultures and times?  Since I’ve been out of the USA only once in my life, I really have no first hand experience with other cultures other than my own.  And in my culture, intelligence simply isn’t valued.  I have felt out of place among my own people and culture for as long as I can remember.  People thought it odd that my friends and I liked to talk about history, science, and current events more than school yard gossip and popular culture.  I was good at speech, drama, and knowledge bowl competitions, but I got far more recognition from being a mediocre football player.  And my school was more academically inclined than most schools in my region.

I have always felt like an outsider.  And developing a mental illness in my late teens only made it more pronounced.  But I suppose that being an outsider as a kid made me resilient enough to navigate a serious mental illness.  And it’s this sense of being an outsider that allows me to endure long stretches of time in solitude.  It’s this sense of being an outsider that frees me to go against popular norms and look at problems in different ways.  It’s the sense of being an outsider that took away a lot of old fears that held me back in my younger years.  I don’t fear looking like a fool.  I don’t fear being wrong because I can learn from being wrong more than I can always giving the teachers the “right” answers.  Besides, all grades measure in school is how good a kid can conform to the existing system.  Well, the existing system is becoming obsolete and is going to get changed before too many years.  It is unavoidable.  Why measure fact retention when I can look up any fact on google and wikipedia within a few seconds?  In future generations, kids are going to have to be taught to be problem solvers and deep thinkers. It matters less that, for example, that Sacramento is the capital of California than say, why Sacramento and not Los Angeles or San Francisco.  Or instead of knowing that Columbus sailed for the Americas in 1492, it would be better to explain how he was able to convince the Spanish throne to give him the funds, how he kept his crew motivated when setting off on a potential suicide mission, or what effects there were by the Europeans meeting with the Native Americans.  In the automated future, fact retention and unthinking obedience is going to matter much less than creativity and problem solving or skills that computers can’t master yet.  And it can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

In many ways, the geeks and nerds won the culture wars.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have much more influence and money than even Michael Jordan or David Beckham.  Geeks and nerds coming out in force is probably why there have been so many comic books made into movies the last several years.  Heck, even video gaming is becoming a competitive sport.  But I guess if bowling and poker are, why not video gaming?  Science and tech are gaining in influence and prestige while aspects of our past like war and poverty are going in decline. We are very fortunate that there hasn’t been any major wars between developed nations since the end of World War II.  I fear such wars would go nuclear.  So it’s a great development that we as a species are starting to lose our stomachs for violence, war, and bloodshed.  Practices like human sacrifices and near constant raiding and war used to be the norm not that many generations ago.  Such practices are considered barbaric relics of when our civilizations were less mature.  And it’s largely thanks to the geeky outcasts and their science and tech advances.

I want to end on a positive note.  I am grateful to be a geeky outsider.  I hated it as a teenager, but it was for the better.  It made me better able to deal with mental illness, it made me more self reliant, and it made me study more.  I’m much better read now than I was before I became mentally ill.  I’m glad I’m not normal.  I’m glad I’m not ignorant.  Ignorance and normal are both overrated.  In fact, both ignorance and normal suck.

Normal People From A Mentally Ill Perspective

While this may be a bit of a rant, I hope to do it in a comedic and loving manner.  I have lived as a human being for over 37 years now.  While I have learned some cool things along the way, like Ramen Noodles, diced grilled chicken, and alfredo sauce go great together, there are other things I still don’t know.  Some things I have accepted that I don’t have to know, like how to build a nuclear reactor or fly a plane.  Other things, like why normal people sometimes act in irrational and self detrimental ways, cause me to go gray early not knowing.

I can’t understand why normal people are afraid of science and technology.  In all honesty, knowing how to make fire is a technology.  So is attaching sharpened rocks to sticks to make spears.  I would love to know exactly when in our species’ history it became fashionable to fear changes and be nostalgic for a past that wasn’t that good.  I would have to guess that when people started to figure out farming about 10,000 years ago and began to settle in villages and towns, there were probably old timers who were lamenting the loss of the nomadic life of following the herds of game.  I wonder what the ancient Sumerian or Egyptian term for ‘Luddite’.

 

 

 

Keeping My Mind Occupied

It’s been a few days since I wrote so an update is in order.  I haven’t left my apartment much the last few days.  We’re in the middle of a heat wave and it’s really too hot to be out if you don’t need to be.  I still have some groceries from when I went shopping a week ago, so there’s no need to go out yet.

Even though I’m stuck at home, I have been keeping occupied.  I found a free gaming site online that carries many of the old Apple games I grew up with in the late 80s and early 90s.  So I have spent quite a bit of time there the last few days.  I’m still working on some old computer games as well as having bought a couple cheap games a few days ago.  I’m still calling my family and friends at least once a day.  So I have intelligent and fulfilling conversations even without leaving my couch.  Been playing enough computer games lately that it’s keeping me occupied.  I usually play games while listening to audio books or science lectures on youtube.  Plowed through a few audiobooks already this month.  I got through the first book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.  It’s a good read.  If you are into any kind of science fiction, I highly recommend it.

I’m also watching old Star Trek reruns on Netflix.  So I’m keeping occupied, entertained, and getting my science fiction fix at the same time.  It’s a shame I didn’t discover my love for good science fiction until I was in my thirties.  I think I would have enjoyed those kinds of things as a teenager.

I haven’t had any bouts of depression or anxiety for weeks.  I’m also no longer hallucinating.  Most of my hallucinations were auditory ones that were doing commentary on everything I was doing, kind of like play by play of a ball game on the radio.  I sometimes felt things on my skin, feeling like bugs crawling on my skin.  When I’d go to look, there would be nothing there.  Other hallucinations I’d have involved hearing foot steps outside my door, hearing my phone vibrate when no one was calling me, and sometimes I’d even hear knocking at my door that was so soft that I could barely hear it.  About the only hallucination set I still have is the feeling of bugs crawling on my skin.  I still get that a couple times a day.

Overall I really don’t have a lot to report.  Been mentally stable for weeks and I really haven’t gone anywhere besides to the convenience store to buy soda pops a few times a week.  I’m now sleeping only eight hours a night.  I’ll usually sleep five hours in the middle of the night, wake up at sunrise, stay up a couple hours, then sleep another two to four hours until late morning.  So  far it’s working out to be a good summer routine.  Fortunately have been able to avoid stressful situations and aggravating people.  Hope I can keep this up for the rest of the summer.