Beginning of School Year and Maintaining Stability

It’s been fairly quiet in my complex the last few days.  The highlights of my week were when my cleaning person arrived for the weekly cleaning and the exterminator arrived to do his routine spraying.  Got groceries too so I’m set for the rest of the month.  I have been avoiding going out the last few days as school is starting back up again.  My town is a college town, so the streets are crowded again with several thousand college kids.  Even though I haven’t been a college student since 2005, I always enjoy when they come back.  I do regret that I don’t get out to the college as much as I used to for sporting events or activities.  I enjoyed going to the ‘taste of the world’ festival the college had every spring when the foreign students would make dishes from their home nations and some would even wear traditional clothing from their home nations too.  Even the American kids got in on this, with one group wearing get ups from the 1950s and serving hamburgers and fries.

Overall I’m doing well.  Still in a traditionally tough time of year for myself.  I sometimes have minor flare ups of anxiety and irritability a few times a week.  They don’t last very long and they aren’t as intense as they were in my younger years.  I have found if I avoid high amounts of caffeine and carb rich foods, I do better on those days.  I also avoid certain conversations and topics because some topics often make me irritable or anxious or I just feel probably too strongly about.  If I seem less social the last few weeks than normal, that is why.  It’s nothing personal but I just want to avoid potential problems as much as possible, especially during traditionally tough times.

So far I’ve been doing pretty well and I want to keep it that way.  I can be really tough on family during my bad flare ups.  I’m sorry those have happened.  I think it would be better for all involved if I could just break down sobbing rather than being angry and lashing out.  I don’t know how much of that is my illness, where and when I grew up, being a man, etc.  But it is easier talking about my problems now than even ten years ago.  And when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago, I was scared to tell even my college friends.  So yes, progress has been made in those regards.  Often doesn’t feel like it during the day to day grinds.

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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.

Letter to My High School Self

High school graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Many of these kids will be going to college, some to the military, others to work or travel or do missionary work.  It was eighteen years ago, in 1999, that I and my cohorts graduated from high school.  That was half of a lifetime ago.  I’ve been legally an adult now as long as I was a juvenile.  An incredible amount has changed in my life, and the world at large, since that Saturday May afternoon in the farming village of my youth.

What follows is a hypothetical letter to my eighteen year old self, mainly about things I wish I knew in my younger years that would have made my transition to the world of 2017 easier.  Too bad I couldn’t do this for real, I’d tell my younger self to buy stock in Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla when they first came out 🙂

Dear Zach,

You have just graduated from high school and now the world awaits.  I know you are looking forward to college much more than you did high school graduation.  That’s understandable.  For many people, high school is some of the roughest years of their lives.  You definitely had your problems in school, but those are now past.  Some of the people you went to high school with you’ll never have to be around again.  College will be better in many aspects.  You’ll get to pick what you want to study.  You’ll have more say in who your friends are.  The bullies and idiots will be in the minority.  Besides, most people will be too busy with their own lives to harass you like you got it in high school.  You may not think so now, but someday you will be thankful that you’re smart and nerdy.  Within the next fifteen years, you will see so much science and tech advances that you will realize that, yes, nerds really do rule the world.  No one is going to care that you weren’t a star jock or class president in college.

Speaking of sports, I know there were some aspects of high school football and band you hated.  I know you didn’t like the summer practices at six a.m. or the macho atmosphere of the locker room.  But be happy you got to play.  Playing football on Friday nights is the closest you’ll ever get to being like a gladiator or warrior.  Be happy you got to be in the school pep band.  It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to feel like a rock star.  Most thirty year olds don’t get to stand out or preform at anything.  Even though you didn’t have a great social life in high school, be happy you went to a smaller school and had opportunities to be involved in many different activities.  Most of your college friends and coworkers who went to much larger schools won’t be as well rounded as you will become.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t work your dream job out of college.  Most people won’t.  In fact because of the technology advances I talked about earlier, many jobs will be taken over by computers and machines.  So many people will be in that place where they’re working jobs they didn’t train for.  It’s not a failure on your part, it’s just that the world is changing much faster than people even in 1999 could anticipate.

Also, don’t feel guilty if you struggle at dating.  In the future, almost everyone will struggle at dating.  Besides, you will see many of your classmates go through divorces and marriage issues as the years pass.  Almost half of marriages will end in divorce.  And in the future, many adults will forego marriage entirely.  Surprise, so will you.  But being single isn’t bad.  It’s actually quite peaceful at times.  Some really big achievers in world history never married or had children.  You’ll be grateful you never got married.  Trust me.  You always had a hard independent streak in you.  That’s only going to get stronger with age.

Don’t take the opinions of others too seriously.  People in general can be quite dumb at times, so their opinions are almost never right.  The only person you have to answer to at all times is yourself.  Guard your integrity.  Be a man of sound character even if most people around you are liars and cheats.  Yes, cheaters do prosper.  But people will not honor their prosperity as much as they condemn their lack of character.  This was true in the past and will continue to be true.

You will have victories.  You will have struggles and losses.  People will come and go out of your life.  But hold onto your close friends and family.  Be happy you got to know your grandparents.  They won’t be around forever.  Be content and calm no matter what happens or doesn’t happen.  You will change your mind and thinking about almost everything several times over during the next eighteen years.  The only people who have their life philosophy set in stone at age eighteen are fools who are setting themselves up to be obsolete and out of touch with reality.  Like I told you, major changes are coming.  You wouldn’t believe me if I told you some of the things you will see before 2017.  You’ll just have to see them for yourself.

Be happy that you traveled and were open to new experiences in your youth.  The older you get, the tougher it will get to just travel or try new things.  Continue to be open to new experiences.  It will put you far ahead of most adults in your life.  Speaking of adults, don’t just think that because someone has gray hair or more money that they are smarter or wiser than you.  Many times they won’t be.  Some of them were just lucky.  And chance does play more of a part in your life than you would like.  You like the thought that you have a lot of say in your own destiny.  But in reality, you really have less control than you would like.  Sometimes things just happen that aren’t your fault or because of your hard work.

Remember to relax and know that life is a competition only against yourself.  Never compare yourself to anyone else.  You can’t live their life and they can’t live yours.

Sincerely,

Your 36 year old self, May 2017.

Problems Socializing

Been a few days since I last wrote.  But that is mainly because I really haven’t had any real ups or downs.  I’ve been quite stable for several days.  Haven’t felt any real anxiety or depression for any true length of time.  I still spend most of my time alone without much for physical interaction.  But I still interact with friends and family via phone calls and Facebook.  I don’t mind being alone as much as I used to.  It’s a routine that doesn’t cause me stress and anxiety.  I just see no need to interact with my neighbors much as I really have no interest in talking about mundane things like weather and complex gossip.  I just have no use for that kind of information I can pick up on my own within seconds.  I don’t have to rehash the same mundane nonsense over and over again.  It bores me and irritates me.  I mean, seriously, please tell me something I don’t already know.  Or better yet, tell me something that is interesting.

Naturally many people I have met over the years have thought I was aloof, arrogant, and anti social.  This is mainly because I have interests outside of my home community, sports, and politics.  It was tough growing up in an era before the internet in an isolated village.  I was annoyed at how everyone in my village thought my business was their business.  This bothered me even in grade school.  I had always heard “If you’re not up to anything bad, it shouldn’t matter who knows”.  No.  Most people I knew and know today are really judgmental of anyone outside of the accepted norm.  I am outside of the norm on just about everything.  Playing football in high school was probably the only thing I did growing up that many people would have thought normal.  No I don’t like mindless chit chat.  No I don’t like chasing women.  No I don’t like most of what is on tv.  There’s a lot of things I like that most people don’t care at all about.  I like discussing the possibilities of future science and technology.  I like discussing history.  I like discussing philosophy.  I like discussing classical literature.  I like writing.  I like reading.  It seems that most people I know haven’t read a book since high school.  And if any of likes or dislikes makes me appear as an elitist intellectual snob, than so be it.  We need more people who try to think rather than just through life sub conscious.

None of these social problems are made easier by having schizophrenia.  But at least having mental illness and problems socializing has taught me who is and who isn’t trustworthy.  I may not have lots of social contacts, but I do have some amazing family and friends.  And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

Adapting To Winter with Mental Illness

Some people think I’m strange in that I prefer cold weather to warm weather.  Besides spring, winter is usually the best time of year for me.  While Christmas might not mean much to me personally anymore, I do enjoy seeing the excitement and joy on my nephews and niece’s faces.  I enjoy spending time with family more than I do getting gifts anymore.

The weather has certainly turned quite cold since Thanksgiving.  It doesn’t really bother me as I have plenty of books to read, food in my pantry, good internet connection, and I can call up friends and family pretty much anytime.  I probably would feel different if I lived in the Old West as a mountain man who had to cut his own firewood and go hunting all the time.  Since the weather has turned colder and the nights are getting longer, I have been sleeping more.  I’m not sleeping out of depression or sadness but I just like getting under the heavy blanket and semi hibernating.

Been reading quite a bit lately.  I’m reading mostly non fiction and science books lately.  Reading science and tech books, even ones that are a few years old, made me realize just how fast things are changing.  And most people don’t even know these changes are happening.  I currently have a several year old Play Station 3 but the next gaming consul I buy will probably have some Virtual Reality setup.  I imagine the Oculus Rift is a popular Christmas gift this year.  I’m probably going to wait a couple years and let the prices come down before I get one of my own.

Since it looks like it’s supposed to stay cold for the next several days I think I’m pretty much going to stay home.  I have a few projects around the apartment that I want to get on top of.  Been kind of lazy about some things as I was fighting bouts of depression and anxiety all fall.  I’m probably going to rearrange my apartment.  As I don’t have a lot of furniture this won’t take more than an hour or two at most.

One advantage to the colder weather is that I’m much less apt to go for fast food.  I’ve been eating healthier the last several days and I notice an improvement already in my moods and energy level.  Sometimes in the afternoons I’ll walk the hallways of my complex just to break up the routines on these cold days.

I’m back on my normal meds doses.  I had to increase all my meds during the fall because of my problems with stress, depression, and anxiety.  But as I’ve felt much more stable the last few weeks I was able to come down off the high doses I was on.

All in all I’m beginning to settle into my winter routines.  I have plenty of books I want to get read this winter and I’m already off to a good start on those.

 

Dog Days of Summer and Mental Illness

Been feeling pretty decent mentally for the last several weeks.  I haven’t really felt much anxiety or aggravation this month.  I am back exercising again.  Still have a long way to go to build up my stamina.  But it is better than even two weeks ago.  I am starting to get out of my apartment complex more often.  I haven’t been to the park much this summer but I am beginning to get over my fear of driving.  It’s been quite hot in my town this summer, especially this month.  So far the heat isn’t effecting my mood.  I usually do better in colder weather than hot weather.  Winter and spring are usually my best times of year.

Heard back on my insurance claim from my auto accident last October.  They’re offering to cover my medical expenses and give a little extra for my troubles.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the money as I already live debt free and really wasn’t planning on getting anything extra.  I’ll probably put the money into my savings.  When my car was wrecked, the auto shop had to do a few thousand dollars worth of work on the car.  It was almost as much as the resale value of the car.  If the airbags would have deployed or the damage much worse, the car would have been scrapped.  It’s a good car with only 42,000 miles and only one previous owner.  It was a commuter car for a nurse who took good care of it.  It’s a good car and hopefully I can hold onto it for the next ten years.

It won’t be too long before the weather starts cooling off and school starts again.  School starts in 3 1/2 weeks in my town.  Since I live in a college town, this town really comes to life again in the autumn.  I went to the community open house at the local state university last year.  Had enough fun I might go again this year.  I haven’t done much for socializing or fun this summer.  My nephews and niece are visiting their grandparents next week so we’re talking about taking the kids to a museum and for a picnic lunch in my town when they are here.  It’s their last fling before school starts.  The oldest is starting middle school this year.  And the youngest will probably start pre kindergarten this year as well.

The Olympics start next week too.  I always enjoy those.  I especially like watching the track and field events.  I hope it goes off without any problems.  I really haven’t watched much for tv or sporting events since the end of the Copa America and Euro tournaments.  I especially had to watch when Team USA played.  Other than getting blown out by Argentina the US team put up a better showing than I thought they would.  It would go a long way to popularizing soccer in the US if they put up a good showing at the World Cup in a couple years.  I follow soccer some, especially if Team USA is playing, because I have a niece and a nephew who are big soccer players already.  And I have to keep reminding myself that unlike football or baseball, soccer doesn’t have tv timeouts every fifteen minutes.  More than once I have had to visit the restroom while watching a game only to miss a goal.

The weather will start turning cooler within four to six weeks.  The leaves will start turning by late September and the corn harvest will begin in late September and be in full speed by October.  This has been a long summer for me but it is almost over.  I’m pretty happy that I have gotten through much of the summer without any prolonged problems.

Thoughts on Late Summer and My Life’s Work

The time between July 1st and middle September has traditionally been the toughest time of year for me.  I can expect at least one major psychotic break during this time of year every year.  That is the way it has been ever since I was diagnosed with a mental illness in 2000.  The first time my parents witnessed me having a psychotic breakdown was in the summer of 2000.  I committed myself to a mental hospital in September 2006 and again in September 2013.  I had a bad breakdown in August 2014 when I almost committed myself.  If it would have went on for another two hours I would have gone to the hospital.  Late summers have been tough for me my entire adult life.

It’s not uncommon for people with mental health issues to have times of year that are tougher for them than usual.  Many people often feel depressed and sad during the darker winter months.  But my toughest times have always been during the late summers, usually around the time the school year starts.  Where I went to school, we usually started the third week of August rather than wait until early September.  My therapist has suggested maybe the idea of school starting again brings me added anxiety and aggravation.

I really didn’t enjoy school that much even back in grade school.  I hated the social aspects of school from about second grade on.  And sometimes I was bored in class because much of what was covered I had read on my own already.  I was not popular at all in school.  I was essentially the non athlete who was not socially savy enough to hide the fact that he was smart.  I got a real hard time for years because I didn’t like sports and I loved reading.  The close friends I had experienced the same thing.  Since I went to a really small school, I just couldn’t hide out with other nerdy kids.  As a result I never developed traditionally nerdy interests.  I have never bought a comic book. The only real science fiction I like is Star Trek.  I don’t like fantasy novels and movies.  I never played Dungeons and Dragons.  I can’t program or build computers.  I wasn’t socially savy enough to fake interest in popular culture and sports.  I played football only because I was big.  If I wasn’t 6’2″ and 270 pounds  I would have never made the team.  I was usually the slowest man on the team and I couldn’t even bench press my own body weight.

Besides my best friend (who was female) I didn’t date much in high school.  There were rumors that I was homosexual because I did so poorly at dating.  It wasn’t a matter of not getting a second date, it was a matter of not even getting a first one.  Needless to say all of this effected my outlook and probably my personality.  One of the reasons I went to a college where no one from my high school attended was so I could rebuild and start over.  Even though I was going through the worst of my mental illness in college, it was far more bearable socially because I wasn’t the only odd man on campus.  I was in an environment for once in my life I wasn’t penalized for being smart.  I met some people so smart even I couldn’t keep up with them.  I also met people who were C average students in high school suddenly pulling all A’s because they had a purpose for once in their lives.  I met people even quirkier and eccentric than I.  I still didn’t date much but years later I found out there were a few women who wanted me to ask them out.  Had I not been so badly burned in junior high and high school, I might have picked up that these women were interested in me.

As it is now, at age 36, I have lost all interest in dating.  I am more focused on blogging, reading, learning, and my other pet projects.  Having talked to older men in my life, I have found that many of them started having less interest in sex and chasing women and became more focused on their work and outside interests about the time they hit their early to mid 30s.  That’s about right for me.  I started getting really interested in writing for public consumption and became cool with the fact I didn’t have to date or get married about five years ago. In my twenties I was distraught that I wasn’t getting a lot of dates or was attractive to women.  I readily admit I am not attractive.  I look like a cross between Shrek and Tony Soprano 🙂  Never have been  handsome and never will be.  But I’m all right with it.  I’ve accepted while I’ll never get married and have kids, it’s okay.  I’m cool with it.  I’ll throw my efforts into blogging, writing, reading, researching, learning, being a good friend, being a good uncle to my niece and three nephews, being a trustworthy son to my now elderly parents, and becoming the best Skyrim and Civilization player I can possibly be.

I kind of want to be a Most Interesting Man even though I’m not classically handsome or a world traveller.  I may have not travelled the world outside of USA and Mexico, but my writings certainly have.  Earlier this month I added up how many nations I’ve had readers from and it’s around 90 different countries where I’ve had at least one reader.  My parents as health care providers can’t claim to have treated people in that many countries.  My brother the engineer can’t claim to have designed projects in that many. And that’s in only three years, two hundred blog posts, and about $100 in advertising.  Long live the internet.  If I thought I was photogenic at all I’d start a youtube site.  Maybe I could just do voice overs and feature my friends’ artwork 🙂 It’s a few ideas worth kicking around.