Hermiting, Covid 19, and Schizophrenia

Been isolating and staying home for the last several days.  I do all my communication through social media and phone calls.  My cleaning lady had to have surgery so she’s out for probably a few months.  My neighbors come by and help out every few days.  Overall I’m burned out on dealing with people in person.  People actually scare me anymore.  The less I deal with them, at least in person, the better.

Currently working on audiobooks.  Recently listened to The Economic Singularity by Callum Chase.  Currently working on The Rise of The Robots by Martin Ford.  A friend of mine is trying to talk me into reading the Dune and Foundation series.  I read the first Foundation a year ago.  But I got soured on science fiction as a teenager when movies like The Terminator, Gattaca, and The Matrix were really big.  I have enough dystopia in my own life.  Why in the hell would I want to escape to that?  Recently read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harrahi.

I spend almost all of my time avoiding people.  These are real scary times for me, especially living in low income housing, being on disability, and dealing with mostly angry, irrational, and illogical people.  It seems like most people I personally know just want to fight all the time.  I’m through with that.  I’m ready to move past the anger phase.  Too bad almost no one I know is.  I am thankful I don’t live in a large city.  I am thankful I can hermit and stay home.  I am thankful I don’t have to deal with angry and stupid people anymore than I already have to.  I don’t see how most people can deal with this.  I know I couldn’t.

June 16 2020

Been real hot since Memorial Day.  Got some good rain also.  So at least it isn’t completely unbearable.  I have slept quite a bit the last two days, mostly out of boredom.

Sunday, June 14 was my birthday.  My parents came up for that.  Brought in lunch from a deli in one of the local supermarkets.  Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and chocolate cake were excellent choices.  I was glad they were able to make it up here.  I was originally worried about them getting exposed to the virus while travelling.  But they took precautions.  I wear face masks whenever I answer my door and pick up deliveries.  My dad joked that I may have been ahead of the curve when it came to getting groceries and supplies delivered to my house.  Been getting groceries delivered for a few years now.  Not many people did this when I first started, at least not in my town.  But even in the small college community I live in here in Nebraska, it’s catching on.

Had a short breakdown a week ago.  I always hate those.  I feel bad that I rant and rave to my family during those.  I do remember much of what I say during those breakdowns.  But it’s almost like the impulse controls are no longer working.  I feel sick that I take my frustrations out on family.  I’ve had only one breakdown in public, that was five years ago when I yelled at a young cashier.  I immediately apologized but I still felt so bad I stayed out of that store for over a month.  I guess I don’t understand people who take out frustrations on customer service workers.  Maybe I just have a big heart or just have more sympathy than some because I used to work in customer service.  Thankfully I’ve never had a breakdown around my brother’s children.  I love those kids and they are the last people I want to hurt.

Thoughts on My Upcoming Birthday

My birthday is this Sunday.  I will be forty years old.  I guess the thing I’ve noticed about getting older is that I do have more aches and pains, especially in the mornings.  I have to be more careful about what I eat too.  I’ve noticed that too much caffeine makes me irritable and short tempered.  Too much carb rich food like bread and pastas will make me lethargic and sleepy.  Too much milk will unsettle my guts.  It’s also easier for me to fall asleep.  I do wake up at least once a night to visit the bathroom.  I don’t desire sugar as often.  I have little to no interest in sex, certainly not enough to start dating again.  I have come to be more accepting of my weaknesses and drawbacks.  I’ve learned to compensate and work around those weaknesses and drawbacks.  Instead of looking for what’s going wrong in the world, I spend much of my time trying to figure out what’s going right.  Even though I’m middle aged, I have more empathy for kids and young adults.  I didn’t have much empathy for kids and young adults when I was a kid and a young adult.  I’ve come to accept that everyone has their own struggles and problems, so it’s best to go easier on people overall.  I’ve developed more of an appreciation for customer service workers like waitresses, cashiers, delivery drivers, shelf stockers, gas station clerks, etc.  I have found that a good cup of coffee and a home cooked meal will give me more joy than going to clubs and chasing women ever did.  And I learned that we as humans are far more adaptable and able to change than we realize, especially in the long term.

June 7 2020

Starting to sleep less overall.  Been reading alot, especially online articles and journals.  I still keep in contact with my friends and family.  Been going easier on the computer games the last few days.  I do get lonely at times.  That’s why I try to stay in contact with friends and family.  My friends circle is quite small these days.  Too many people I personally know are real angry and scared these days.  I try to stay positive and remind myself that these current troubles will eventually pass.  Too bad almost no one is listening.

We Knew The Problems, We Didn’t Act Accordingly

Haven’t left my apartment since last weekend.  Been sleeping more too.  2020 has been an insane year, to say the least.  Pandemics.  Protests.  Quarantines.  Broken supply chains.  Private space flight takes astronauts to the space station.  Yes, 2020 will be a year for the history books.

While all these things are overwhelming for me, I try to stay grounded and positive.  I try to tell people around what’s actually going right.  I tell people that I am hopeful that all of our current troubles are hopefully the birth pains of a more humane and balanced way of living and interacting with the world.  We were foolish to base so much of our manufacturing overseas, especially essential medicines and protective gear.  Militarizing the police was not a good idea.  The uncomfortable conversations about bigotry have been put off for far too long.  Our governments spending too much money and passing the debts off to future generations have gone on for too long.  The gaps between the wealthy and the poor have gotten unmanageable.  The middle class, a key ingredient in any stable and free society, has been under siege financially for too long.  Many people in their twenties and thirties don’t see how they can ever afford a house or children when they already have a small fortune in  student loans.  They were told, like I was, a college degree was necessary to get any jobs beyond frying chicken or pumping gas.  Then they get out of college and the good paying jobs their parents and grandparents had aren’t there.  And now automation is probably going to take over a significant portion of jobs in most industries.  Any wonder most people are scared and angry?

Most of this has been building for at least a couple decades now.  Workers in my parents’ generation knew that social security wasn’t going to be enough to cover their retirements.  Yet, too many of them didn’t save and invest enough to make up the difference.  Now they can’t afford to retire and creating a log jam of millions of younger people overqualified for the entry level jobs they have available.  We knew that too many police officers weren’t being held accountable for using excessive and deadly force, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods, yet we wouldn’t hold them or corrupted local politicians and judges accountable.  Doctors and scientists have been warning us for decades a major pandemic was extremely likely in our lifetimes.  We knew, but we refused to prepare.  We knew about the potential dangers of climate change since at least the 1960s.  Sure, rivers are less polluted in many countries, electric cars are becoming reliable, solar and wind power becoming cheaper than coal in many countries, power storage is becoming more feasible, and nuclear fusion is in development.  But we are starting to see the effects of what scientists have been warning for decades.  We knew a major stock market crash was due once my parents’ generation started retiring and selling off their retirement funds.  We didn’t do enough to prepare, either as nations or individuals.  Wages for most workers haven’t budged in terms of inflation since at least the early 80s, even though workers have gotten more productive and are demanded more from employers.  We treated customer service workers like garbage for decades.  I saw it everyday I worked.  I even received enough abuse from customers, bosses, and coworkers alike I will never work in customer service again.  I don’t care if my disability does get cut off, I’d rather starve to death than be treated worse than an animal.

2020 is indeed a very stressful year for most people.  It was made worse because problems we’ve known about for decades were either never addressed or addressed inadequately.  Hopefully 2020 will be a year when we start to make right the wrongs and bad decisions of previous decades and eras.  I don’t know what it’s like to be black or any other racial minority.  And I never will.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman either.  And I never will.  I don’t understand their problems.  But I do want be empathic and be part of making right the wrongs of the past and present.

Thoughts on My Upcoming 40th Birthday

I’ll be turning 40 years old in two weeks.  I guess the days drag slowly but the years go fast.  I sometimes lose track of time during the day to day grind.  I’ve been a bit more nostalgic than usual lately.  Been listening more to the music I liked back in college and high school.  While I don’t buy into the whole ‘older music is better than new’, I do like a lot of the things that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s.  But, then again those years were real significant to me.  It was when I was growing into the man I would eventually become.  In those years, I had my first dates, my first kiss, travelled to Mexico for a couple weeks, actually had good physical health, could stay up all night and still do a full day of classes with little more than a couple Pop Tarts and a cup of coffee.

It seems the only true constant in life is change.  I risk sounding like an old man when I say I’m amazed at all the changes I’ve seen just in my lifetime.  I’m old enough I remember the last few years of the Cold War.  Even as a nine year old growing up in rural Nebraska, I knew that the Berlin Wall coming down was significant.  I was in fourth grade when my elementary school got a bunch of Apple II GS computers.  I felt like I joined the future right then and there.  Now those are ancient relics compared to what we have now.  I may sometimes give my elders a hard time for not being comfortable with computers, but my nephews would give me the exact same hard time for being uncomfortable with VR programs and 3D printers.  My thirteen year old nephew set up a VR flying program for my father, a licensed pilot and former Air Force pilot.  I don’t know how to do this.  Maybe I could after watching a few tutorials on youtube, but not until then.

Just in my forty years, I’ve seen computers go from clunky desk tops to fit in your coat pocket supercomputers that happen to make phone calls.  I’ve seen the electric car become reliable.  I’ve seen the internet become as much as a game changer as the printing press and steam engine in previous eras.  Saw 9/11 and the subsequent wars.  Saw China become a world power.  Saw the European Union and Brexit both.  Saw the rise of Populist politics on all sides in many countries.  I’m seeing the Covid 19 pandemic play out in real time.  Saw the rise of robotics and the beginnings of AI.  Saw the Human Genome Project get completed.  Saw the rise of social media and tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.  Saw Apple’s renaissance.  Saw the decline of video rental stores.  I’m witnessing the decline of traditional retail (and many of my previous jobs were in retail).  I’m seeing the beginning of driverless cars (I imagine our grandkids will find that term as quaint as ‘horseless carriage’ was in the early 1900s).  Heck I’m even seeing researchers trying to slow down the aging process.  And these are just the things that are in the headlines everyday.

I don’t know if I have another forty years left in this life, but it has been an exciting ride so far.  I would love to make it to 2060, if for no other reason than to just see what else plays out.  We do live in troubling times, with the pandemic and protests turning violent on an almost daily basis.  I remain hopeful that these are the birth pains of a changed for the better civilization that makes more efforts to not repeat the wrongs of past eras.  Granted, some days it isn’t easy.

Learning, Education, Work and Mental Illness

I was a sophomore in college when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia.  That was in the fall of 2000.  I had been struggling with depression, paranoia, and anxiety for a few years before I had my diagnosis.  At first I thought it was mainly just teenage angst and moodiness.  I was still doing well in school and was able to at least appear like I had everything together.  I was still on the football and speech teams, I was still making honor roll most of the time, I still had some friends, etc.  But inwardly I was a wreck.  I was fearful of going to the school guidance counselor as I attended a really small high school of less than 90 students.  Back then, almost no one talked about mental illness or depression issues.  It had far more stigma back in the 1990s than it does now.  The internet was still in it’s infancy, there was no youtube, and blogging was still a few years away.  So I suffered in silence and in solitude.

I didn’t talk about my internal problems until they became unbearable because, first, I was certain no one would believe me.  Two, I still had images of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in my head as to what mental problems meant.  Three, I was often told to “suck it up” and “others have it worse than you” even while in grade school.  Four, I feared appearing weak.  So I just suffered in silence for a few years.

As far as I know, no one knew about what was going on in my mind.  If people did, they never asked.  And I was too paranoid to tell anyone.  For the first years I had problems, I was still going to school full time and working on the weekends and during the summers.  I was so anxious and paranoid about going to work, I would vomit before my shifts several times a week.  Since I had spent my entire life listening to people complain about how much they hated their jobs (like they were proud of how much their jobs sucked), I was scared to tell anyone.  I just suffered in silence.

Finally in fall 2000, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression.  It was actually a kind of relief for me in that I wasn’t the only one having these problems.  I didn’t realize that mental illnesses were more common than diabetes until after I was diagnosed.  No one ever talked about mental illnesses in our family or my town.

For the next few years, I took full time classes and worked during the summers.  When I wasn’t in classes or spending time with friends, I was in the college library reading the philosophy and classical literature books that everyone talked about but very few actually read.  I’m glad I got to do that.  I doubt I could have done that had I not went to college first, at least not until the internet really got going.  But spending all those evenings in the campus library instilled a love for learning in me that still burns to this day all these years later.  Sure I wasn’t graded on what I studied and I didn’t get a diploma that stated I had learned such material.  But I knew that I did.  That’s all that mattered to me.

After I graduated from college and worked for a few years before qualifying for disability, I still read a lot of books.  I still do lots of reading, granted it’s mostly online articles, e-books, and audiobooks.  And, no, I don’t have any certificate that says I learned this material.  But it doesn’t matter.  The most fun I ever had at a “work” task is doing what I’m doing right now, writing blogs about navigating my life while working with a mental illness.  I don’t consider it “work” or “a job” because it doesn’t have the stress of any of my traditional jobs.  I love writing about my experiences and trying to be of assistance to others even though it doesn’t pay at all.  I don’t care that it doesn’t pay.  Sometimes, I’m glad it doesn’t.  For I fear if I ever were to accept a writing job or get pay for writing, I would be at the whims and mercy of those paying me.  Screw that.  I want to tell the truth, the good, bad, and mundane of living in the modern day with schizophrenia. I know what living with schizophrenia is like.  I’ve done it since at least my late teens.  I doubt any book editor or manager at a blog service has that kind of first hand experience.

I fear I couldn’t be completely truthful if I did accept pay.  I fear some boss would want me to “Hollywood up” my writings by exaggerating or being more dark just so I could get more readers.  I don’t want that.  I want this blog to be an educational tool and a means to communicate to others what it’s like to be mentally ill without it being threatening or divisive.  I do have good days with mental illness.  I have bad days with mental illness.  Some days getting out of bed and calling my parents is the best I can do.  Others, it’s writing a blog entry that resonates with some of my readers and getting a lot done.  Some days I just want to stay home and keep to only my thoughts.  Others I would road trip for several hours to visit friends out of state or go to baseball games, concerts, etc.  Some days I can talk for hours on end with almost anyone.  Some days I don’t want to even hear the sound of another human voice.  It’s ebb and flow, high tide and low tide.

Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Been feeling pretty decent overall the last few days.  My neighbors hosted a cookout.  We had barbecued pork.  It was exactly what I needed.  Been having fewer aches and pains the last several days.  My parents bought me some new furniture.  My new recliner is several inches higher than my previous ones.  It feels good to finally have a chair where I’m not sitting so low.  Getting in low chairs was never a problem, but getting out was becoming a problem with my sore knees.

Still sleeping more.  I often sleep during the days.  I sometimes wake up for a couple hours in the overnight.  Mentally I feel more stable.  I saw my parents and my brother last week.  I hadn’t seen my brother in a couple years.  It was good to touch base with him.  We weren’t really close as kids.  But at least we are making up for that as adults.

May 19 2020

Visited my parents and my brother over the weekend.  Got some new furniture and some hard to find cleaning supplies.  Had some good fish and chips for our family dinner.  Since I live so far inland, about the only seafood restaurants in my town are Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster.  I admit I never did develop a serious taste for seafood because it was tough to get fresh seafood in Nebraska.  But we always had excellent beef and pork.  I had a college friend from Wisconsin and she said their dairy and cheese sections were as big as our beef sections in their supermarkets.  I always found little cultural differences like this interesting.

Haven’t been having much for aches and pains lately.  I think this is partly due to the warmer weather.  I’m still taking multi vitamins every morning.  Started taking some vitamin D several days ago.  I am starting to feel a little more energetic and slower to get upset.

I’m supposed to be having the maintenance man come do some work in my apartment next week.  I’m getting one of those biddets on my flush toilet and having some electrical wiring work done.

Put my art work and flags back up on my walls.  I had my walls painted several weeks ago.  So between my art back on my walls and some new furniture, my place is feeling more like a home again.

Got my stimulus check a little over a week ago.  Bought some emergency supplies and food.  I really don’t need to leave my apartment for a few weeks if I don’t want to.  As glad as I am that small businesses are reopening, I am still a bit afraid to be out in public because of the covid virus.  Seems like there are no easy answers.  If we keep public areas closed too long, many businesses will go bankrupt and millions more people will lose jobs.  If we reopen too soon or too much, we could see a second wave of infections and possibly overwhelm our health care systems.  Either way, there is going to be lots of pain.  There are no ideal answers in a case like a pandemic.

Mentally I’m holding out well.  I still sleep at least nine hours a day.  I talk to friends and family at least once daily.  I make a point of watching some optimistic news on youtube at least once daily.

Self Quarantine: May 16 2020

Had my parents and my brother as guests the last couple days.  Got a new recliner and my home was redecorated.  My new chair feels so good.  I think I could sleep in it if I wanted.  It feels good to have my paintings and flags rehung.  The walls looked barren the last several weeks with nothing up.

Been getting lots of rain the last few days.  I have my blinds open all the time to let sunshine in, at least whatever we can get.  The weather has turned warmer.  I’m glad winter is over.

Sleeping better the last few nights.  Been napping more too.  Spent much of today sleeping as I was awake late last night.  I get lots of sleep even if it is at odd hours.  And I don’t feel as stiff and sore when I wake up now.

Was feeling more paranoid and depressed until a few days ago.  Since the middle of the week, things have been more bearable.  The last two days with my family went excellent.

Got some groceries yesterday.  About the only thing I have problems getting now is ground beef.  Things are slowly starting to open back up.  The restaurants and bars in my town are reopening on the 18th of May.  I hope that those who lost jobs during the pandemic either get them back or find something better.