Helping Friends Through Depression and Burnout While Having a Mental Illness Myself

Other than my parents I haven’t been socializing much lately.  Seems that many of my friends are more depressed and anxious than usual.  Normally I would be annoyed and irritated by people just being in rude and obnoxious moods while I would be sympathetic to those who were depressed and anxious.  I try to connect with these friends but I can’t tell that I’m getting through to them.  Sometimes I feel as though I’m wasting my breath and that my friends really don’t want my company.

Hopefully this is just the illness part of my mind speaking.  But it does concern me that so many of my friends are having issues with depression and burnout.  It didn’t use to be this way.  It use to be that I was the one with the depression and burnout and my friends were the ones doing alright.  Now the tables are turned.  I can tell my friends and family who were probably annoyed with my depression and hangups in my younger years that I appreciate your efforts to keep me in the loop.  I especially appreciate you inviting me to functions that I probably wouldn’t just show up to on my own.  I may secretly begrudge social activities at first but once things get started I’m glad I participated.  But your efforts to include me and encourage me did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  I may not say it often enough, but I do appreciate my family and friends.  I may not keep in contact as much as I would like.  In some cases, I imagine my friends may be annoyed by how much I try to stay in contact.  But I don’t have many options for decent socializing.

I appreciate my friends and family.   I hurt for them when they are suffering and struggling.  Such is the price of being naturally empathic in a time and place that doesn’t value empathy and connection.  But it is kind of strange helping my friends out with their depression and stress issues now.  I imagine that since many of my friends are in their late 30s and early 40s, this is prime years for the mid life crisis.  I guess I had my major crisis in my teens and twenties while my peers were getting started in their careers and still dating and thinking about marriage.  It’s now my turn to be the support system to those who need it.  I want to believe that my empathy and support of my friends in their struggles is appreciated.  I want to believe that the fears that say my friends would rather I go away are just my illness creeping back in, and I do think that it is.  But there are the moments of weakness still.

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Trying to Maintain Hope Around Negative People

 

I just don’t talk to anyone much anymore.  But then it seems like people have been avoiding me too lately.  I hope this is just my paranoia creeping in.  But it does seem like almost no one has time or energy to just chat lately.  I fear that I’m becoming this way too.  I try to stay optimistic overall but it is tough.  First, I’m not an optimist by nature as I wasn’t raised to be one.  I was almost never told anything positive about the world or life in general from my elders as a kid.  Made me wonder why anyone had kids if the world was falling apart as much as my parents, teachers, and church elders told me it was.  But that was before I got out on my own and came to the realization that most people are more ruled by short term emotion than by long term logic.  As someone who is part artist and part science enthusiast, I find my emotion and logical sides at conflict quite often.  I have spent the better part of the last five years training up the logical part of my mind.  It isn’t easy and it’s often frustrating.  Bill Gates once stated that people tend to overestimate change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term.  Getting to see what cool stuff happens next is one of the things that keeps me going.  It’s the scientist, the engineer, the doctor, the humanitarian that gives me as much hope as most of my friends get out of their political parties.  I try to explain to my friends that politicians can pass budgets, pass favorable laws, and then get out of the way.  That’s about all they can do.  I have never seen a politician build a power plant or figure out how to grow more crops with fewer chemicals.  Many problems of modern civilization are science and engineering issues, not political or even social ones.

I just as well be speaking ancient Sanskrit to my friends in that they’re not coming around and probably never will.  I would love to live in a world where the scientists and doctors were as well known and respected as pro athletes and big shot Hollywood stars.  But I suppose that’s a pipe dream that won’t come true in my lifetime, if ever.  As it is I am a mentally ill unemployed man trying to make sense of the madness in the people around me.  At this point I’m glad I don’t have a regular job in that it would probably drive me to complete break down.  I’m glad for the safety nets I have.  It saddens and sickens me that there are people who want to remove even these.  We live in a post industrial civilization where we can feed everyone, not some Stone Age Darwinian survival of the fittest setup our ancestors already overcame.  Yet, it seems like some people are bent on bringing back the Stone Age.  I hope it’s just my paranoia creeping in but it does seem like there’s too many people losing hope and giving up right before things get real interesting.  As far as any politicians of any country go, they are merely “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot” to quote Carl Sagan.  We would be wise to regain such perspective in our own lives.

Last Days of Summer

Spent some time outdoors enjoying one of the last few days of summer.  Also doing some cleaning in my apartment and rearranging furniture.  It’s now a little easier to maneuver around, especially in the living room.  Previously I had my computer desk in the middle of the room so I could watch ballgames and work on my computers at the same time.  I now have a better setup as I won’t be tripping over power cords and wires as much now that I’ve moved my desk to a corner.  I have my computers set up so I can watch them like a television from my recliner.  I moved my couch so I watch tv from the couch.  Previously I had used my recliner for everything.  I use my regular tv mainly for play station games and live ballgames.  Playoff baseball starts in a couple weeks and my Rockies have a shot of making the playoffs again this fall.  We lost out in the first round last year.

After three months of changed eating patterns I think I’m seeing some positive differences.  I am actually wanting to be active now rather than just spend entire days reading online articles or books.  I socialize more often.  I make it a point to now chat with other tenants at least three times a week.  I rarely stay awake all night anymore.  I am not as paranoid and anxious about my neighbors as I was this spring.  I have fewer aches and pains.  I still get winded sometimes when moving heavy furniture but I recover faster now.  I still sometimes get stiff after sleeping, but it usually takes only a couple minutes of sitting up to be back to normal.  And my clothing fits better.

Previously, from spring 2014 to summer 2015 I had lost slightly over 70 pounds in that time.  I stagnated for a few months and then I had my car accident in fall 2015.  After that I gained it all back.  Oddly it took over two years to gain it all back, so it took longer to gain it than it did to lose it in the first place.  I don’t really have any set goals as of right now.

I still sleep more than I would like.  But so far it has helped me from having relapses.  This has been a more pleasant than usual summer.  Now the leaves are beginning to change and the weather will start cooling off any day.  In Nebraska we usually get our first frost in mid October, so in three to four weeks if the averages hold out.  I really don’t want to change much of my routine as it seems to be working.  Sure I would like to travel more, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Social Life and Depression

Getting out of the apartment several times a day now.  Have been for the last several days.  Catching up on the news of what’s been going on around the complex and meeting some of the new residents who moved in during the summer.  Seems like we have a few really cool people move in lately, and some of them are even in my age bracket and younger.  So I might be rebuilding some of my social safety nets that had fallen apart over the last few years.

I haven’t been as social over the last three years as I had been previously.  I think some of it started when three of my friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other.  Then we had a few problem residents come in that gave problems to everyone.  So I started isolating to avoid the drama.  Then my grandmother died, which I think I took harder subconsciously than I realized at the time.  My car accident in late 2015 left me scared to drive and not able to trust other drivers on the road for a long time.  2016 is a lost year as far as I’m concerned.  The drama and emotions from the elections caused me so much grief and anxiety.  I also lost some good friends and lost contact with some extended family because of those emotions running hot.

After months of hot emotions and people going insane over the pettiest things, 2017 was another tough year.  I spent most of that year alone.  I rarely visited friends or family.  I went entire days without leaving my apartment.  I more or less lost my ability to see anything decent in other humans, especially people in my immediate life.  I devoted most of 2017 to my writing and self directed scholarly endeavors.  Seeing some of the advances that were rapidly being developed was one of the few things that gave me hope in those dark years.  Like a fool I tried to share this information with people, but almost no one took me seriously.  I had some jerks tell me I was “fake news” and a liar.  “Fake news” is another stupid phrase I despise.  After a few episodes of this, I became real despondent.  I lost myself in computer games and youtube videos and just became annoyed and irritated with people in general.  The less I had to deal with flesh and bone people, the better as far as I was concerned.

But after almost three years of depression imposed exile and hermitage, I am slowly becoming more social.  I actually want to socialize now.  I truly believe that the type of people one surrounds themselves with can effect your mental and even physical health.  I have believed this for years.  But since most people I knew and ran into on a daily basis were in foul and angry moods, it just seemed better to just isolate, stay out of sight, and hope to God that people eventually came back to their senses.  I’m thinking that people, at least the ones I associate with, are starting to come back to their senses.  I certainly hope so.  The last three years were lonely years.  The only years I would rather relive less is my late teens and early twenties before I was being treated for mental illness.

Changes in Personality and Mental Illness Symptoms with Age

Currently going through a prolonged period of stability.  My levels of depression and anxiety have been quite low lately.  When I do have such issues, they don’t last long and aren’t very bad.  I haven’t had a breakdown of any kind in months.  Haven’t been hospitalized for almost five years now.  I was having feelings of depression and paranoia earlier this year but I wasn’t overly concerned about it as I wasn’t having the anger or aggression issues that traditionally went with it.  Sure I would go days without leaving my apartment, but I wasn’t excessively angry or looking for arguments.  So I wasn’t as worried as I should have been.  Not wanting to socialize for long stretches of time isn’t normal for me.  Sure I have had stretches when I wanted to be left alone for several hours or a day at most.  But I was going sometimes entire weeks when I’d leave my apartment only two or three times the entire week.

Naturally some of my neighbors became concerned.  I may have never been Mr. Popular but I made it a point to be polite and thoughtful to everyone I met.  Yet as I wasn’t even socializing, nor did I want to, that wasn’t normal for me.  I have never been one to just bunker down for days.  I had gotten to that point, particularly during the winter.  It wasn’t my traditional problem with mental illness, but it was a different one.

People do tend to change some with age.  I imagine mental illness issues are probably not much different.  Aspects of my personality and habits have altered over the years.  I’m not as hot tempered as I was even five years ago.  I laugh more often now than I did in my twenties.  I enjoy the little things of life more.  Overall, I’m happier now in my late 30s than I was in my late 20s.  And this is despite my physical health not being as good as it was ten years ago or my being more social than I am now.  I think I have gotten happier and more calm with age.  And I quite enjoy it.

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Since the weather has been so hot the last several days, I’ve been running most of my errands at night.  Picked up some new medication that supposed to help with binge eating problems.  I am a binge eater.  I’ll go hours without eating and then gorge all at once when the hunger pains take over.  And that’s probably worse than snacking throughout the day.  Been on this new med for a few days and I think it’s starting to work.  I have eaten much less than normal and I even need less sleep too.

I still stay awake until dawn and usually sleep until noon, at least unless I have doctors’ appointments.  I’ve also been socializing more often.  Made friends with a new neighbor last night.  I went to take my trash out, sat down as she was coming out for a smoke, and the next thing I knew I had talked to her for over an hour.  I guess I didn’t realize how many new people moved into my complex this year alone.  I really haven’t been socializing because, until recently, I was too depressed and paranoid to.  I was happy to spend much of my days attending Youtube University and learning for my own personal vanity.  It’s amazing what one can learn in several months of intense study.  And I was able to pick up the social skills like I always had them.  It also helps that a few of our problem residents have moved out over the last several months.  Until recently I was too wrapped up in my own depression and paranoia to notice.

I socialize more on facebook too with old friends and extended family.  I had pretty much dropped off facebook for a year or so because of all the arguing and fighting during the last election cycle.  Hopefully these bad experiences have cooled many peoples’ passions and made us more tactful as a species.  But I definitely make it a point to avoid politics, child rearing, and money as these can divide friends and family even in good times.  I think I’m not the only one who wants to make social media fun again.

Early July or Middle Summer

It’s almost Independence Day in my country.  And of course people are shooting off fireworks and making plans for cookouts already.  I don’t have any real plans besides grill some bratwurst on my electric grill and watch fireworks from my apartment window.  As it has been quite hot and humid the last several days, I have avoided going outside unless necessary.  Of course I’m not getting much sunlight by staying indoors most of the time.

I’m a week into my new medications plan.  I found out the hard way if I take them all at once like I have traditionally done, then I will want to do nothing but sleep for the next twelve hours.  After a couple nights of that, I found out I had to break my medications into at minimum twice a day.  So I usually take some of my medications when I eat breakfast and I take the ones that help me sleep at night before bed.  After a week on these new meds I have found my self eating less than usual.  And I have recently had an odd craving for cheese and milk.  Maybe I haven’t been getting enough calcium the last several months.  I’m also looking out for more non meat sources of proteins like beans.  I now actually want to eat certain fruits like strawberries and blueberries.  Too bad they are kind of pricey.  It’s also too bad that most inexpensive foods aren’t very healthy.  That could explain why so many poor people, at least the poor in the USA, are overweight.

As far as blood pressure goes, I knew for years it was only a matter of time before I ended up on blood pressure pills as that runs in my family.  My father has taken blood pressure medications for years and he’s now in his early 70s.  He also hasn’t had any heart attack or stroke problems.  Hopefully I can make it to my 70s inspite mental illness and being overweight.

I’ve noticed a few changes already in this new treatment.  It takes more to make me irritated.  I’m less paranoid.  I actually want to leave my apartment and interact with my fellow tennants.  I’m better able to stay on top of household chores.  I eat less than normal.  I feel less tense.  I have fewer unexplained aches and pains.  About the only true drawbacks I noticed so far are that I want to sleep more if I’m not careful about when I take my meds and I have to use the rest room more often.  I don’t know if that’s the meds or the fact I drink more water.  I easily drink almost a gallon a water every day.  But there are worse things than water to be consuming.  For a few years I’ve been having nerve problems in my thigh that sometimes felt like burning electrical shocks.  But those problems have all but gone away by now.

I still have to get some new furniture for my apartment.  Most of the things I had were quite old and had to be replaced.  I’m thinking of sweet talking my parents into letting me have one of their sofas.  I also think I need a heavy duty recliner that I could sleep in if my back ever started hurting again.  My living room is looking kind of bare with only a couple kitchen table chairs and my tv and a “coffee table” decorated to look like an old style travel trunk with all the stickers of places and resorts from around the world.  That was my mother’s idea.  I’m glad she talked me into putting those stickers on.

Overall things are going well.  I’m gradually being cured of wanting to sleep all the time.  And I’m also slowly being cured of my desire for sugared soda pop.  Anymore if I want caffeine, I’ll have coffee or tea.  I can hardly wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

Living With Very Few Regrets While Mentally Ill

 

I have my birthday coming up in a few days.  My birthday doesn’t mean as much to me anymore as it did when I was in my youth and early adulthood.  I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m not going to get younger or stronger as I age.  I accept that things on my body are going to start wearing out.  I’ve even accepted that I may become forgetful and not have as rapid mental recall as I did in my younger years.  But this mental illness has become easier to manage than it was even five years ago.  Even my current problems aren’t overbearing like they were years ago.  Now they are irritable occurences that I just deal with until they pass by.  I really think my mental illness is easier to deal with now in my late 30s than it was when I was in the prime of my health.

I don’t worry about getting older.  I actually welcome it.  I’m not really that nostalgic about the past and I really don’t have that many regrets about my past.  I avoided all the major mistakes and learned from the minor ones.  I’m not tied down as much as many people I know.  I know people from my classes in high school and college who have gone through divorces, stuck in dead end jobs, paying off massive debts, in unhappy marriages, have addiction problems, and generally not having a very good time in their thirties.  My only true problem is I can stand to lose about 100 pounds.  I’ve already lost at least 25 pounds since New Year’s.  All I really did was give up fast food, give up most sugar, give up most bread, and drink only water and coffee.  Even my chronic back pain is gone.  I do occasionally allow myself thin crust pizza, but I go heavy on vegetable toppings when I do.

As cool as my college years were, in spite of the schizophrenia, in some ways my late 30s are even more amazing.  I stay in contact with my college friends via facebook and instagram.  I have all the music I spent a small fortune on in my teens and twenties for free on youtube and spotify.  And I even listen to some of the newer material that comes out too, not just what I grew up with.  When I was a teenager I promised myself that regardless of how my life or career turned out, I would never allow myself to become a bitter old man.  That’s why I don’t complain about the “lousy kids” or pine for the “good old days.”  I do have a few regrets, but the big one (not having much of a relationship with my brother), even that can be reversed once he and I start to put the effort into it.  We may not talk much, but that isn’t because we hate each other.  We just have totally different lives and day to day experiences.

I may not have dated many women, but I did have some roller coaster ride romances I don’t regret.  I asked out all the women I had crushes on in my life, got turned down by most of them, but I’m not wondering ‘what if’ about the one I let get away.  Just because I asked was a victory in some regards.  I’m glad for the dates I had, even the really lousy ones.  I don’t regret being stood up by women, or being rejected, or watching one woman I liked date one of my close friends.  And I don’t regret being unmarried at this point in my life.  I definately don’t regret not paying alimony or child support.  If, at some point down the road, I do meet my forever instead of my usual until whenever types, I’ll consider it an added bonus.  But I am not worried about being an old man and alone. By the time I get to be an old man, I may have a robotic assistant that does everything that a professional care giver would anyway.  I’ve lived 38 years at this point and experienced some cool things.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

There Really Is More to Life than Just Working and Money

Been feeling quite lonely for the last few days.  I’m actually craving attention from other people, especially from people with similar interests and in my age bracket.  Haven’t heard from any of my old high school or college friends in weeks.  Seems like many of my friends got busy with family and careers and forgot about their old friends.  As far as I can tell, I am one of the only single friends in my circle of friends.  Some of my friends have even gone through divorces by now.  I almost never hear from my brother.  But he has four kids and a serious career, so I guess we have nothing in common.  And to make things even worse, we weren’t close at all growing up.  We were just completely different people with nothing in common except that we had the same parents.  Not having a relationship with my brother is one of the few true regrets I have about my current life that I could have done different.

Having a serious mental illness taught me that there is more to life than having a career.  Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize this until they are retired and most of their life is behind them.  This is probably why so many people feel depressed and useless once their careers are over, especially older men.  Like most boys, I was constantly asked what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I usually answered something in the sciences.  But the mental illness came creeping in just right before I could cash in on my brains and use them in a career.  Thank God I found a small niche online as a mental health blogger/philosopher.  I don’t even want to think what would have happened had I been born in my grandparents’ generation and not had this outlet.  It also makes me wonder how many mentally ill geniuses were lost over the centuries because they had no outlets to use their smarts.

I wanted to be a scientist when I was a child.  As it turned out I became a writer with interests in science.  I developed lots of interests and hobbies over the years, but never became profecient enough to turn these interests into careers.  For awhile as a child I flew model airplanes with my dad.  I did quite a bit of fishing and survival training when I was in Boy Scouts.  I made model cars for awhile.  I collected coins and baseball cards for a few years.  Still have all of  my baseball cards from my youth.  I taught myself some basic computer coding.  That probably could have turned into a job, at least until computers can regularly code themselves.  Who knows, maybe in the future the majority of people won’t have regular jobs simply because machines and programs can do them better and make many things cheaper.

While I wouldn’t mind a future like this, I do understand why some people are apprehensive about what could be coming in the next couple decades.  For generations, people have identified with the work they did to live.  Everybody was interested in work and a person who didn’t need or want a regular job was an outcast.  I have been an outcast in this regard for the last several years in that I don’t have a regular job, and really don’t need one as I can live just on my disability pension.  I no longer feel the need for a lot of money.  What I want at this point is to do work that makes a difference to people, the kind of work that “puts a dent in the universe” as the late Steve Jobs used to say.

While I am not delusional enough to believe I’m sure to get famous just from blogging, I do want to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who happen to read these postings.  I suppose that since my basic needs are met by my disability pension, I can now move onto meaningful work and self actualization on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Self actualized and I make poverty level (for American standard) salary, only in the early 21st century.  The closet I can think that anyone else in history was to this while living at low wages is probably medieval monks and scholars.  No need to be entertained with lots of money when my own mind can keep me company.

May 19, 2018

I’m currently at my parents’ house for the next couple days.  There was some maintenance work that needed to be done at my apartment.  But as long as I have my computer and even average internet service, I can get everything I need done.

Been sleeping more than I would like again.  Not sure what to make of that.  I’ve also been more frustrated and short tempered and depressed than usual for the last couple weeks.  Normally spring is my favorite time of year.  So I’m not sure what’s going on.  Still getting more active and being more careful about what I eat.  Since I am at my parents’ house, I’ve been doing more socializing in person than my usual.

Being back in a small town for the first time in months, I had forgotten how quiet things could be.  I had gotten used to hearing people in my hallways and knocking on doors for most of the day.  I was also hearing ambulance and fire sirens a few times a day too as I lived on a busy street.  And I forgot how dark it gets at night in rural areas.  It’s almost eerily dark.  Yet it was something I had taken for granted while growing up.

I plan on spending another couple days here.  I really hadn’t had much peace and quiet in my life for the last few weeks.  I’m ready for things to settle down again.  Dare I say, I actually miss winter now.  I don’t miss the cold and snow, but I do miss the quiet days and down time.  I usually do pretty good writing in the winter months.

My back still flares up from time to time.  The worst part is that I can’t stand for more than ten minutes without real bad back pain.  I’m afraid I may have to go back to a chiropractor.  I’ve already had a couple rounds of treatments since my car accident.  But I’m getting more and more afraid that this back pain might be chronic even as I lose weight.  It’s really sad as I used to walk thirty minutes a day, five days per week before my car accident.  I know now that wreck messed me up more than I cared to admit.  Hopefully as I lose more weight, the back pain can subside.

As it is, I’m taking it easy for the next couple days as things are getting straightened out back home.  And I am enjoying the first true downtime in the last few weeks.