Thoughts on Aging With A Mental Illness

Stayed home this weekend and cleaned in my apartment.  I had to take more frequent breaks than I used to in years past.  I’m just not as energetic as I was even two years ago.  I guess this is what I get to look forward to as I continue to age.  I decided I’m hiring a cleaning service to give my place a complete going over as soon as possible and then have them come back regularly.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to have them do it weekly or every two weeks.  It depends on prices.

I wish I didn’t have to go this route.  But then, I wish I wasn’t schizophrenic either.  There are things that I’m not going to be able to do alone, especially as I get older.  The idea that I can’t be as independent in my late 30s as I was even in my mid 30s is the hardest part of aging that I have had to come to accept. I always had an independent streak in me that didn’t want the help of others and wanted to be my own boss.  I think it runs in my family.  My father, my grandfathers, and I think most of my great grandfathers were self employed small business owners or farmers. I am starting to understand that there are things now that I can’t do alone anymore. I now understand why almost all of my friends got married or partnered up by this point in their lives.  Even the people I know in their forties that never married are closer to their extended family then they were in their twenties and thirties.  I suppose that seeing my limitations and losing some of my old physical abilities are a part of myself having to accept my own mortality.

I have heard from older men in my social circles that when they hit their mid to late 30s, that was about when their physical strength and interest in sex started to wane and decline.  That is also about the time when their careers started to take off, they assumed leadership roles in their jobs, social organizations, churches, and communities too.  This is when their careers, family lives, and leadership skills started to show.  Some men also had their ‘mid life crisis’ and life changing events like divorce and or death of parents occur during their thirties.  I guess this is when many people start realizing they are going to lose their physical strength and eventually die.  Traditionally forty represented the middle point of life even in ancient times, barring deaths from accidents, disease, or war.  At about age forty, that is when people traditionally go from rank and file members of society and start assuming more leadership roles.

In my case, I have found myself a home as a mental illness blogger.  It certainly wasn’t my dream job nor what I thought I would be doing when I was twenty one.  Back then, I had changed my college major from pre medicine to business management.  At the time I was really interested in personal finance and investing, so I thought I wanted to be a financial advisor and help people plan for their retirements, etc.  I interviewed at a few of these types of firms my senior year of college, but was never offered any job.  I had to accept that I wouldn’t be using my business training in a traditional job.  I have accepted that and made my peace with it.  I couldn’t say that ten years ago.  As it is, the blog is reaching more people than I thought it would when I started five years ago.  It certainly took me further than traditional publishing would have taken me.  And this means of work didn’t even exist when I was in grade school.  It makes me wonder what new jobs will be springing up in the next twenty to thirty years.

I am starting to come to the acceptance that I am losing my physical strength.  I probably will never be able to do things quite like I did in my early twenties unless some miracle of modern science and medicine comes along, which as much as I love science, I won’t bet my life savings on 🙂  I’m starting to come to the acceptance that I’m not going to as spry as I once was.  I have to be more careful about what I eat and activities I involve myself.  I guess I’m moving into middle age.  Hopefully I can avoid the whole mid life crisis deal as I’ve had to come to accept many hard truths about myself and life in general years ago when the schizophrenia really started.

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Holiday Routines

Spent a few days in my childhood home over Thanksgiving weekend.  It went better than expected.  I was worried that things wouldn’t go well with so many people in one house.  Fortunately things went with no problems and I got to see my brother’s family for the first time in months.  I had been avoiding socializing in person for months just because it seemed that most people were always in foul moods.  That is all I had seen on social media for the previous two years at least.  Finally I quit checking my facebook and twitter accounts.  I don’t use either one except to promote my blog now.  It saddens me that I had to lose contact with some of my oldest and dearest friends because some people insist on being blowhards and jerks to other people online.  I always wondered what people like that were like in person.  It would be an interesting experiment.

Returned home over the weekend.  I have pretty much avoided going shopping or even on the roads to avoid the holiday crowds.  I never did enjoy crowds, even before I became mentally ill.  I pretty much do most of my shopping online anymore.  I found out that there is a grocery store in my town that will allow online orders and home deliveries.  I have used that a few times lately.  And I’ll be using it even more now that the holidays are here.

As far as celebrating Christmas is concerned, I’m not as excited about getting gifts as I was when I was growing up.  Anymore I just care about spending time with family, having good food, and watching my brother’s kids have a good time.  I also enjoy going around my town and looking at the decorations, especially after dark.  And since we usually have snow on Christmas were I live, it adds even more beauty to the season.

All and all I am ready for winter.  Summer was hotter than usual and autumn seemed to last longer than usual.  I am not as worried about being in closed quarters with my neighbors as I was in years past as several of my problem neighbors moved out this autumn.  It has been quiet and peaceful ever since.  I leave my apartment more often and I’m more apt to make a point of socializing with neighbors.  Used to be I would sometimes go entire days without leaving my apartment.  But those problems are over.  It seems the older I get, the less tolerance I have for rude people and stupidity.  And I am noticing my friends in my age bracket are becoming the same way.  Thank God I haven’t gotten to the point were I’m complaining about the “lousy kids” yet.  If I get to that point, I hope somebody knocks some sense into me.  I spent my entire childhood and my twenties listening to my elders gripe and moan about people in my age bracket.  Going through that, I promised I would never do that to anyone.

Overall my life is rather no thrills.  I spend a lot of my days playing computer games, reading online articles, talking to friends and family over the phone or online, and chatting up my neighbors.  I am still slogging through the Star Trek spinoffs on Netflix.  I would eventually love to have watched every episode of Star Trek.  I still have a long way to go.  It will probably take a few years.  On the bright side, I’m no longer sleeping twelve hours a day anymore.  And the hallucinations I have now are no longer frightening, they are just annoying.  Maybe mental illness does get less severe as a patient ages.  I think it has in my case.

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.

Things I DO NOT Believe In

 

This post is going to be off the beaten path of a life of mental illness.  This is meant to be both kind of fun and as a way to get to know your mentally ill corespondent a little better.  So here is a list of things that I don’t believe in.

 

Santa Claus

The Easter Bunny

The Tooth Fairy

Divine Intervention

Love at First Sight

Love is Forever

The Cops Are My Friends

The Cops Are Jack Booted Thugs

Nostalgia for the Past

UFOs

Faith Healers

Most Homeopathic Medicine

Vaccinations Cause Autism

Network Marketing Companies

The Power of Positive Thinking

The World Is A Terrible Place

We Live In Excessively Violent Times

Kids Today are Lazy and Worthless

Politicians Were Honest and Noble in the Past

Adults Know What’s Really Going On

Old People Are Always A Source of Wisdom

Young People Are Idiots

Money Back Guarentees

Shape Shifting Aliens

The Illuminati

Cryptic Messages On The Dollar Bill

Elvis Never Did Drugs

Music Died With John Lennon

Hip Hop Died With Tupac and Biggie

I Would Be Happier If I Was A Millionaire

The Novels of Dan Brown

Rock Music Promotes Devil Worship

Hip Hop Promotes Violence

Country Music Promotes Alcoholism

Jerry Springer Isn’t Staged

Reality TV is Really Real

Cable News Reports All The News That’s Worth Reporting

Property Values Always Go Up

Anything On Late Night Infomercials

Pick Up Artists

TV Evangelists

You Too Can Make Money On Youtube

Being A Writer Is Glamorous

Celebrity Worship

The Past Was A Golden Age That Was Friendlier

The Future Is Going To Be Terrible

People Are Less Moral Now Than In The Past

Anything Said By Alex Jones

The Lunar Lander Was A Hoax

The Two Party System Is The Only Way To Go

The War on Drugs

Politics Is More Important Than Science and Engineering

The World Is Falling Apart

Being A Kid Is Great

Being An Adult Sucks

Journalists Always Tell The Truth

Teachers Are Always Noble

Worrying Makes Things Better

Complaining Makes Things Better

Being A Pessimist Makes You Right

Being An Optimist Makes You Stupid

Most Talk Radio

Guru Worship

Hollywood Remakes

Everybody Always Gets What They Deserve

Cheaters Never Prosper

Honesty Is A Sucker’s Bet

Jocks Are Better Than Nerds

Video Games and Comic Books Are Just For Kids

Computer Hackers Are Fat Geeks Living In Mom’s Basement

The End Times Are Upon Us

Trusting Anything Completely

Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better

 

This isn’t a complete list of my entire philosophy on life but it is a start.  After making this list I realized that, in spite having a serious mental illness, I’m not as crazy as I thought.