I Am Not Anti Social

For years my family have been on my case trying to get me to socialize more.  Even as a child I preferred to stay home and read my books as opposed to go to the big social activities in my farming village, namely high school sports games and county fairs in the summers.  I never did enjoy such activities as much as most people.  I mean, I enjoyed playing football and running track in high school far more than I did watching them.  And anything I could see at a county fair or Fourth of July parade, I could see any day of the year just by looking around my town.  No, I would have rather spent my time reading about far off places I would probably never get to see, read about a past that most people will never learn, and read about future possibilities (both good and bad) that I would probably not live long enough to see.

And because of my “different” set of interests, I was condemned by my parents, town elders, and even my classmates as being “anti social.”  Yet, this was an absolutely unfair accusation.  I love socializing, I just had different interests than most people I knew growing up.  I was 11 years old before I made a friend who had the same interests in music, history, geopolitics, science, etc. that I did.  And he too was an outcast among my people.  When I was 13, I met the girl who later became the best friend I ever had.  See still is my best friend even 25 years later.  She was even more interested in tech and geopolitics than even I was.  She was also the first person my age I ever met who loved reading even more than I did.  So we wound up spending a great deal of our teenage years at each other’s house.

Naturally, most people in my school thought we were romantically involved even before high school.  No we weren’t.  She was among the handful of people in my hometown who shared my interests and I shared hers.  As a result of being so different from my peers, I always thought there was something defective with myself all the way through my junior high and high school years.

It wasn’t until I spent a little time at college did I realize that I wasn’t defective.  I did much better socially in college than I did as a kid in my hometown.  I made lots of acquaintances, several really cool friends I still hear from via facebook, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t condemned for having nerdy interests or loving to read.  When I was a kid, my classmates would often yank a book I was reading right out of my hands.  They would often steal my textbooks and sheet music in band.  About the only book I never had stolen from me as a teenager was my football playbook and my Bible.  Even though I am almost 40 years old, I still don’t get why people that don’t read much hate those of us that do.  I mean, is wanting knowledge and wisdom such an evil thing?  Why, if it weren’t for acquired knowledge and wisdom being passed down from elders to children, we would have never even survived the Stone Age.  I can’t stand people who are proud of being unread and unknowing and ignorant.  The Dunning – Kruger effect is alive and well in those types.

I guess if there is a point to this post it is this, I am not nearly as anti social as my family and neighbors fear I am.  I can go for hours on end on things that interest me.  About the only things I don’t like talking about are my neighbors, office politics, popular culture, tv shows, stupid stunts going viral on youtube, or engaging in endless and pointless debates on facebook and twitter trying to get points across to people.  Proving people wrong isn’t going to make them like you.  I found this out the hard way.  Now if I am able to win someone to my line of thinking, it is an ongoing and gradual process where there really isn’t one ‘eureka’ moment.  It does get frustrating repeating the same ideas over, and over, and over only to feel like you are not making any difference.  I understand why good teachers burn out before their prime.  Sometimes I feel like I am not making any positive difference.  But we are local and linear thinkers, our species.  And for most of our existence that has served us extremely well.  That’s why it’s so hard to see the large picture or imagine what the future could be, it’s not natural to us.  It is also why visionaries are ridiculed, condemned, and sometimes even killed only for the children of the people that condemned these visionaries to see that the visionary was right all along and it was conventional wisdom that had it wrong.

I am not anti social.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I just have broader range of interests than most people I know.  And talking about neighbors, politics, office going ons, gossip, popular culture, etc. gets old and stale for me real quick.  After about five minutes of such gutter tripe I have gotten the idea and am ready to move onto other topics.

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Christmas Thoughts and Support of Family and Close Friends

Been feeling more irritable and short tempered the last few days.  Not sure what to make of it.  Hopefully it is just the stress of being so close to end of year holidays.  I won’t be going anywhere for Christmas this year.  My parents are returning to Nebraska for a couple days and will be spending Christmas with a few of my aunts.  If I’m up for guests I might have them over for a few hours myself.

But, as it’s been, I just really haven’t wanted to see anyone lately.  Kind of depressing in that I was doing so well for a long time.  Had a short but tough break down a couple weeks ago.  Fortunately it wasn’t as vicious as many as I’ve had in years past but it was still unpleasant and painful anyway.  I hate that I vent my problems on family when I have breakdowns.  I’m sure it has caused them much grief and fear over the years.

I would love to alter my personality to the point that I would just break down and sob rather than be angry and take my problems out on others.  I don’t know how much of that is the way I was raised in my culture and how much of it is being a man.  But I have never been good at suffering distress by taking it out on myself.  I don’t raise my voice as much as I used to during breakdowns.  Hopefully I’m better at coping with the distress of these flare ups.  After nearly twenty years of mental health problems, I should hope so.  I hope at this point I’ve moved far beyond even the acceptance phase and into the advocacy for those who aren’t as experienced with these problems as I.

The weather has been quite decent, by December standards, for the last ten days in my home state.  It still gets below freezing at night so we still have a few patches of ice.  But the roads are clear and it’s pretty easy to drive around town when I need to.  My family and I recently hired a cleaning person who works with a few elderly people in my complex.  I like her work.  Hopefully I can hold onto her services for a while.  I had a really good cleaner a few years ago who cleaned twice a month, at least until she had heart problems and had to take retirement.  I liked her.

I’ve seen my psych doctor a couple of times in the last few weeks.  I’m on a newer anti psych medication that’s supposed to help reduce compulsive behavior and serve as kind of a stimulant.  Most of the psych medications I’ve been on have promoted drowsiness.  I’m still getting used to the fact I don’t need as much sleep as I’ve had in past months.  I usually sleep only six to seven hours a night now, with a couple exceptions when I’m feeling really distressed.  I think sleep is one of the ways my mind works against mental health problems.  But I suppose there are worse ways of dealing with mental distress than sleeping ten to twelve hours a day.

I am looking forward to Christmas.  While I don’t have much planned, I should call friends and family and see if I can set up Skype with them.  I have the programs on my computer, I just don’t use them very often so I’m rusty with them.  I have learned over the years, the real value of the holiday seasons is spending time with family and friends. I don’t really remember much of the gifts I got as a child.  I don’t even really remember when I quit believing in Santa Claus and magic elves.  But I do remember the time I spent with friends and family, especially my grandparents and a couple of my uncles who have now passed away.  Those times aren’t coming back.

I’m glad I had a family that, even in our disagreements, we didn’t cut each other out or bring up our grievances during holidays or weddings or funerals.  I didn’t realize how rare that was until I went to a Christian college and found out from friends and classmates that, in some cases, even devoutly religious families can have serious issues.  I’m glad I dodged those bullets.  I never realized how cool my family was growing up.  Like many teenagers, I thought my family was kind of embarrassing and didn’t know what was what.  But now that I’m of the age when most of my friends have children of their own, my family knew their stuff far better than I realized all along.  My parents are now more like good friends and wise confidants than the authority figures I respected and sometimes feared as a child and teenager.

I’m glad I got to this point in my relationship with my family before they went into declining health or died.  I’m glad for all of it, even the discipline and nagging I couldn’t stand as a ten year old child.  But it served it’s purpose.  I may not have a successful career and well adjusted children like my brother and most of my cousins, but  I am managing an otherwise crippling mental illness pretty decent.  From what I have seen when I was inpatient hospitalization and from what I’ve heard from my readers, this thing could be much tougher to manage.

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.

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.