Career, Family, and Mental Illness

I always wanted to have a great career in the medical science field.  I loved hearing stories about scientists like Einstein, Curie, Pasteur, Edison, etc. even as a small child.  One of the earliest books I remember reading was about Louis Pasteur and his ideas about germs.  I wanted to make good discoveries that would benefit people.  I wasn’t so concerned about becoming rich as long as I was making a positive difference.

As much thought as I put into my future career as a child I didn’t put much thought into marriage and family.  I figured I’d probably follow the same path my parents and grandparents did, meet someone a couple years after finishing high school and get married a few years later.  But I ran into problems with the beginnings of my mental illness while still in high school.  It was my best friend who suggested that I may have a serious mental illness rather than traditional teenage moodiness.  Turns out she was right even back then.

Since I was struggling to figure out the nuances of my mental illness and trying to keep my grades up in college, I swore off dating entirely the last three years I was in college.  I probably could have dated some but I thought I needed to devout all my time and energy to getting through college and my outside reading.  I also didn’t feel right about burdening a woman with my mental health problems while I was trying to figure them out for myself.

I have had flare ups on family members and close friends.  They were painful for me and no doubt painful to those who were catching the force of my breakdowns.  I would much prefer to have a mental illness that would allow me to break down and uncontrollably sob and weep.  But my illness, being what it is, doesn’t allow that.  I haven’t cried in over ten years about anything, not even at my grandparents’ funerals.  Unfortunately the way my mind is wired I have breakdowns where I’ll yell at and curse even those I care about the most.  And I refuse to put a girlfriend or wife through that.  I especially refuse to have a psychotic breakdown around children.  My brother has four kids, aged twelve, nine, seven, and five.  I haven’t had a breakdown around them and I avoid them when I am feeling shaky.  I have had to not attend Thanksgiving and Easter in years past because I was fearful of having a breakdown around my brother’s or cousins’ kids.  As it is I am the uncle who treats the kids essentially the same way I do adults and joke around with them.  I don’t want to ruin that.

I don’t have a wife or girlfriend or kids because of my mental illness.  It’s bad enough dealing with it on my own.  I refuse to take my problems out on anyone else if it can be avoided.  I know myself well enough that I know I would be a bad and unstable husband and father because of my schizophrenia.  That’s why I won’t marry or even date.

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Why I Don’t Trust Authority Figures

Had a good chat with my landlady and the head maintenance man today.  I’ll probably get new blinds and new carpet in my apartment within a few weeks.  After looking over my carpet and blinds she acted quite astonished that I hadn’t been complaining about these problems for years.  The carpet in my apartment is well over twenty years old and I haven’t had good blinds on my windows since I moved in ten years ago.  The carpet has been getting worn and even tearing at the seams for five years.  Yet I never complained to her or any of my previous land lords about maintenance issues.  I never complained about any issues in my apartment because it has been my experience ever since early childhood that no one was going to take my complaints seriously.  Nothing ever changed when I voiced displeasure.  Not only did almost no one take my problems seriously, some people flat out stated I brought my problems on myself or they weren’t even problems at all.  I am used to my elders and leaders not helping me, especially when I have legitimate complaints.  That is why I don’t talk about my problems until they become major crises.

My entire life no one took me or my problems seriously.  No one cared when I was getting bullied at school, not my teachers, not my family, not my classmates, and sometimes not even my friends.  No one cared when I was fired from my McDonald’s job at age seventeen for overcooking maybe $10 worth of hamburgers on a grill.  No one cared for the first three years of my mental illness that I was having problems that wasn’t normal teenage angst.  No one cared when I couldn’t find a decent job immediately after college, let alone acknowledged the fact that many college graduates weren’t finding the decent jobs we were told a college degree would lead to. So forgive me for not voicing my complaints and trusting authority sooner.

Not only were my problems not taking seriously by my elders, my teachers, my bosses, and my landlords, most of the problems of people in my age bracket and younger weren’t taken seriously either.  The elder generations apparently don’t care that their kids have greater college debts than what most of them ever owed on their houses.  Most of my elders complain about their kids not being responsible for not marrying at age twenty two or not having a fifty grand a year job right out of college.  Yet my elders’ parents were complaining about how immature they were during the 1960s when they were doing drugs, burning draft cards,starting riots on college campuses, and doing free love. You may have forgotten your history but I, and millions of people in my age bracket and younger, have not. And I guarantee the “greatest generation” had their detractors in their parents’ generation.  Tragically, people in my generation are already complaining about their kids.  So it goes…….

It’s like once you hit a certain age, maybe late 30s or early 40s, get a few gray hairs, a little authority, a little hard of hearing, and a bit of a pot belly, you magically forget the problems you went through in your teens and twenties trying to get established and how your elders were usually critics and detractors.  Most of the encouragement I ever got was from people in my age bracket, not my elders.  I can count on less than two hands the teachers I had in thirteen years of public school who were encouraging and not indifferent.  My elders have the guts to think my generation and our children’s generation should be happy to fund their social security without doing any kind of overhaul to the system to make it more feasible and sustainable.  Social Security, as it’s run now, is a giant pyramid scheme.  It works well as long as enough tax revenue is coming in to keep the system running.  But with fewer people working to keep the system going, problems will come unless we do some restructuring.  We might have to increase corporate taxes to fund social security.  We may have to legalize street drugs and prostitution and tax those to fund the system.  We may have to raise the minimum age for social security.  We may have to do all of these and more.  What we are doing now is starting to no longer work.  And no one seems interested in seriously changing anything.

People wonder why I don’t complain.  I do complain, just not to anyone in any kind of authority.  I don’t complain to anyone in authority because until very recently no one took my problems seriously.  So do forgive me if I have an unhealthy distrust of my elders and anyone with any kind of authority.

Thoughts on Employment and Education Options While On Disability

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I live in a small town that hosts a small state university.  School began for the fall session earlier this week.  Even though I haven’t been enrolled as a student at any school for ten years I still enjoy it when the college kids start back.  Since a significant percentage of my town is either enrolled at the college or works for the college, the town is really quiet, almost dead, for most of mid May to late August.

I went to the campus last weekend for the welcome back street fair.  Got some cool freebies and got to see that practically every student organization, fraternity, academic department, and interest group had a booth and was represented.  Surprisingly I got a lot of freebie handout coupons that we exclusively for students.  Now I’m in my mid 30s so I was quite surprised that I got these deals in spite my obviously not being a student.  But I was getting carded every time I went to a pub to see a concert well into my 30s except for a few times when I had a full beard.  I didn’t think I looked that youthful.  There are days I certainly don’t feel it.  But I wasn’t about to pass up free giveaways.

While I was at this street fair I couldn’t help but think ‘Do this kids really know what’s going on in the world off campus’ and ‘What will these kids be doing ten to fifteen years from now.’  In my case when I went to college back in the pre wireless internet days of 1999, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the world outside the ivy walls of my Christian college.  Like most naive college freshmen I thought that I would get my degree and then do well in the workplace.  Little did I realize that unless you’re majoring in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field or went to a two year school for a specific trade, college cannot teach you what you need to know for a work place.  Even my friend the high school teacher told me that little of what he learned in his teacher education classes helped him much.  He said concentrating on his subject matter (history and social sciences) and student teaching helped him more than anything he learned in any classroom.

My problem was while I did well in the classroom, I couldn’t make the transition to the real world of work because of my inability to work through stress, crippling anxiety (I literally used to vomit from panic attacks before I went to work even as a minimum wage retail clerk),  inability to read people, and inability to work around office politics.  Would have been good to known this before I sunk five years of my life into college for a degree I would never use in any way, shape, or form.  I am very fortunate to have escaped college debt free.  Most of my classmates weren’t so lucky.  As much as I enjoyed college I would have been far better off going to a two year trade school to learn something like computer networking, web page design, or computer coding.  I would love to go back to school to learn any and all of these three things, but with being on disability insurance I don’t see how that is possible without losing Medicaid.  As it is, my medications cost over $2,000 a month without insurance.  The only way I could go without medications and not be a danger to myself and others is through long term hospitalization.  That’s not really an option as many long term care hospitals have been shut down over the years due to budget cuts and a general move away from institutionalization of mental health patients.

I would love to get into some computer related field, namely webpage design or computer networking.  If there is a way to learn this without getting thrown off the Medicaid entirely I would love to know how.  I’d probably have to do free online classes (if those are recognized by potential employers) as what I make is below poverty level.  I’m tired of being on disability and having to let my mind go to waste.  If anyone from Social Security Disability is reading, you guys are really missing out if you aren’t encouraging people into online studying for jobs that don’t require traditional education.  Besides most jobs do not require a four year degree if it wasn’t for the artificial barrier to entry it created.  Most employers I talked to said that most jobs could be learned with a year of intense on the job training or less.  If the U.S. Air Force can turn recruits into great pilots in less than two years, then it realistically doesn’t take four years of college to learn data entry or any other entry level office job.

In closing I want to work, especially at something like web page design.  I am definitely open to the idea of working from home (commuting even five minutes to my old courthouse job got old), would prefer it actually.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on disability and squander my mind and creativity.  And I think it’s insane that we, at least here in the USA, have a disability system that makes it confusing, frustrating, and almost impossible to return to productive work without a mountain of paper work and a maze of hoops to jump through.  It shouldn’t take acts of Congress and God both to return people who want to work back.  And frying chicken at KFC for minimum wage is not a viable career option for thirty to forty years of a working life.