Dealing With Loss, Isolation, and Declining Health

Haven’t written for a few days.  I’m only now recovered from the holidays.  I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s 2020.  I am understanding why my grandmother said that time only goes faster the older you get.  I’m going to be 40 this summer.  Mentally I don’t feel any decline.  If anything, I feel mentally sharper and stronger than ever.  Physically, my body can no longer keep up with my mind.  It’s been this way for a couple years now.  I would love to be able to road trip and visit friends in person and go to concerts and ballgames at a moment’s notice like I did in my late 20s and early 30s.  But the body can no longer keep up.  I don’t know how much of it is aging, how much of it is the toll of two decades fighting a severe mental illness, how much of it is being overweight, etc.  At this point I guess it doesn’t matter either way.  I am pretty much content to stay home, chat with my old friends online, read my books, mess with my computers, and watch the events of our time and place unfold from my apartment.

Found out right before Christmas one of my college classmates died.  He was only 40.  He worked at a mental health hospital and was a compassionate man.  I hadn’t talked to him much since graduation.  I’m glad we found each other on facebook and were able to reestablish contact shortly before he died.  And then just yesterday I found out another college friend’s cancer has come back.  This time it’s terminal.  The doctors told her she has two to five years at most.  Starting to lose my own friends now.

Seeing most of my friends struggle financially has taken a toll on me.  And now that most of them are in declining physical and mental health and even starting to die is making this only worse.  It has gotten me to think about my own mortality far more than ever.  At my last doctor’s appointment, I was relieved to find I was not diabetic.  The only real problem they found was high blood pressure.  I no longer have much for stamina.  That’s one of the reasons I stay home so much.  Going out in public is now enough of an ordeal that I no longer enjoy it.  Add to this that most people I know are more stressed and short tempered than ever, I have no want to leave my apartment.  I have enough problems of my own to catch an ear full from my neighbors and landlord.  Sometimes I get in trouble even just staying at home.  Most people in my complex think I’m moving out or getting evicted because I never go out in public anymore.  Naturally, lots of rumors are going around.  No I’m not moving.  As far as I know, I’m not in danger of being evicted.  Though for the last few years I’ve lived in near constant paranoia that I was.  It’s mainly because most people are just so angry and short tempered constantly.  It didn’t used to be this way.  I actually used to enjoy socializing.  Then three of my best friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other in 2014 and 2015.  From there my social life fell apart.  Other than a few neighbors, I literally have no friends within a fifty mile radius.  I don’t think most people know or care how tough socializing is for a middle aged man with a disability and no immediate family nearby.  I just keep to myself anymore.  I would rather be alone than have to fight with neighbors, coworkers, and complete strangers all the time.

Day After Christmas 2019

It is December 26, 2019 as I write this posting.  I had a rough go a few days right before Christmas.  I had to postpone my holiday plans as I was having some flare ups with the illness.  Even though I spent Christmas Day at home by myself, I made a point of calling my family and getting in touch with friends via phone and social media.  Got to chat with my brother and his kids and find out what they got for Christmas.  I rescheduled my family Christmas for this weekend.  But we’re supposed to have winter storms this weekend, so it may be getting postponed a second time, perhaps until New Year’s Day.  Fortunately there are lots of college football games this weekend.  So even if we do get the several inches of snow and ice and bad winds, I can stay home and watch football.  I just hope the power doesn’t go out.

I don’t have much planned for the next few days other than get ready for the storm and watch some ball games.  In addition to watching a few games already, I have been thinking over the last twelve months.  2019 hasn’t been as eventful as some years, at least not for me.  I did sell my car, I have employed a cleaning lady who has dropped in once a week, and now one of my neighbors is helping with my laundry.  My neighbors drop in a couple times per week and we just check in on each other.  I had my annual physical checkup in early December.  I didn’t lose weight (like I had hoped), yet I didn’t gain weight either.  I don’t know if I stayed steady because of the change of diet and regular weight lifting or what.  I did start on a blood pressure medication.  After a few weeks on it, I notice I feel less tense and am starting to become more active again.

Mentally I kept largely to myself even though I have felt less paranoid and anxious than previous years.  I have had a few flare ups over the last twelve months, but they seem less intense than in previous years.  I still sometimes call my parents and just blow off steam.  I feel guilty for it even though my parents seem to be understanding.  I admit, I have an amazing family for support.  Even the extended family of cousins and aunts are very understanding.  I’ve been doing this blog on a regular basis for six years now.  I’m more comfortable talking about my issues now than I was even when I started this blog.  I certainly didn’t feel comfortable about talking about my problems twenty years ago, not even really to family.  I started having problems when I was seventeen and a junior in high school.  At first I was hoping it was merely teenage angst and anxiety.  Turns out I was wrong.  After using regular medical treatment and therapy for almost twenty years, it is easier to talk about my problems.  I have moved past the acceptance part and now advocating for others besides myself.  I don’t know how long I will get to live, but I plan on talking about these issues for a long as I can.  For awhile I was thinking about starting a youtube channel where I do voice overs just talking about mental illness.  I am still a little leery about broadcasting myself, but not so much my voice.  I hope that mostly paranoia talking.  A friend of mine has a youtube channel featuring her art work and she’s tried to convince me to put some of my thoughts to video instead of just print.  I didn’t get around to it in the 2010s, but who knows what opportunities the 2020s will present.

Christmas 2019 and Mental Illness

It’s only a few days until Christmas.  My parents are coming up to Nebraska for a couple days, weather permitting.  Unfortunately, weather is always a factor in winter travel in my part of the country.  But I’m actually enjoying Christmas more this year than most other years.  I think many of my friends are the same way.  It helps me that I no longer have to fight the crowds whenever I need to buy something from a store.  I get most of my purchases delivered to my home anymore.  My grocery store has next day delivery and, even though I live in a remote small town, Amazon usually has two day delivery.  I have been playing Christmas music via YouTube and Spotify the last couple weeks.  I haven’t seen any real Christmas movies yet besides a documentary on the Christmas Truce of World War I between German and British soldiers in the trenches.

Overall I am doing okay.  I hired a couple home health aides after my doctor’s appointment.  I have a nurse who drops in every week and a physical rehab specialist who drops in twice weekly.  I don’t have much physical stamina anymore, but fortunately I retained most of my muscle strength.  Odd deal I suppose.  But I am slowly rebuilding my heart and lung strength.

My blood pressure is better regulated now.  And I feel less stressed and anxious overall too.  I leave my apartment to walk in the hallways with my physical therapist.  But I still stay home a lot.  I no longer stay home because of stress and anxiety.  I do it mainly because I am used to keeping myself occupied at home.  I can easily keep in contact with friends and relatives via facebook and phone.  I talk to my parents at least a couple times per week.  I have reestablished contact with my brother.  I wasn’t angry at him or anything, we just don’t have much in common.  He has a high end career, a wife, four kids, a house in the suburbs, etc.  I guess I don’t know how to relate to much of that.  I am grateful to be on good terms with his kids.  I’ll probably never have kids of my own, but I am happy with being Uncle Zach to those kids.

I’ll be watching football most days for the next two weeks with the college football bowl game season and the end of the pro season.  Unfortunately my Huskers didn’t make a bowl game this year.  But they are a young team that shows potential.  Winters are often a slow time for me.  But they are a time when I get a lot of writing and reading done.  Haven’t decided what my reading project will be for this winter.  I may do some philosophy works as it’s been a few years since I read good philosophy.  Since I no longer own a car, I won’t be going anywhere unless I can get a ride.  But it is easier to spend time at home than even five years ago.

 

December 9 2019

Been on my new meds routine for almost a week now.  I’m beginning to notice some positive differences.  I need less sleep, it takes more to become irritated, I move about more, and I even have better concentration.

My lab results came back too.  I am not diabetic (thank goodness), and all my other vitals checked out within normal ranges.  My cholesterol was in the 220s, so I will have to watch that closer.  I picked up replacement parts for my cpap machine.  I also started the paper work to try to get a home health aide to drop in on me every few days.  Overall, things are beginning to look brighter.

2019 has been both a good and a tough year for me.  I gave up most fast food and sugary foods.  I lift weights three times a week.  I’m less tolerant of people who try to mistreat me.  But I’ve also had some tough times too.  I isolate a lot more.  I no longer want to socialize with most people.  I go through bouts of hopelessness and depression more.  Somedays all I want to do is sleep.  I sold my car.  I gave up driving, just too much sensory overload and too stressful.  I guess I have gotten to a point in my life where I have almost zero tolerance for stupidity and rudeness.  And I have a lot of these the last few years, more so than usual.

2019 was a tough year in some respects.  I fear 2020 won’t be any better, at least not as far as socializing goes.

Pain and Depression

Haven’t been writing much the last few days.  Starting to sleep more again. Been fighting a cold for several days too.  Been waking up with unexplainable aches and pains the last several mornings.  This morning, my ankle hurt so much I could barely walk.  Pretty much spent the day sitting down or in bed just from the pain.  I couldn’t even answer the door or get to the phone because my ankle hurts so bad.  Oddly, pain pills and even ice don’t seem to do much for it.  It’s been a frustrating last few days.

Haven’t been having much anxiety lately.  But I have been having problems with depression and irritability.  I sometimes get irritated when I’m physically sick.  I’m not usually very good company when I’m sick or hurting.  I’m sorry for that.

Been discouraged and depressed more lately.  I make efforts to find what is going right out there.  Sometimes that can tough to find.  I haven’t had much for conversation the last few days.  Just haven’t been in the mood.  I feel lonely yet I don’t enjoy socializing, at least I haven’t lately.

Confessions of A Mentally Ill Blogger

Going off subject for this post.  I decided to bring more of my online confessions.  Yes, there is a real live middle age man behind the scribblings and musings of A Life of Mental Illness.  So here goes:

  1.  I’ve had the same best friend since high school.  And my best friend is a woman my age.  I didn’t understand the whole ‘males and females’ can’t be friends trope back then.  I still don’t.  Just because I am a man and she is a woman doesn’t mean we have been or ever will be romantically involved.
  2. I never understood why just because I am a man that I’m supposed to want sex all the time.  I never have, not even as a teenager.  And I used to get such a hard time from my school mates because of it.  I got it worse from my female classmates than I did even from my teammates on the football team.
  3. I never enjoyed dating.  And it wasn’t just because I was most of the time turned down even for something as simple as a cup of coffee at the college student center.  The few times I did date, I always felt like I was under investigation for the pettiest offenses and slip ups.  It was nerve wracking and not worth it.  Angered me that I couldn’t just be honest with women I found attractive.
  4. I don’t understand adults who forget what it was like being kids.  Even though I’m almost 40 years old and starting to get a few gray hairs in my beard, I still remember vividly what is was like growing up.  I don’t romanticize those days nor do I completely condemn them.  I had some good times and I went through some serious trials I never want to go through again.
  5. I don’t understand adults who hurt children.  I think it’s cowardly that some adult would do anything to a kid they wouldn’t dare dream of doing to an adult.  I have less respect for adults who abuse children than I do just about anything else.
  6. I don’t understand the mindset of bullies, especially adult bullies.  I can’t understand how messed up a person’s moral compass has to be in order to feel like they are powerful for messing with people who can’t fight back.  It doesn’t show power in my mind to yell at, berate, manipulate, and abuse people.  It shows a complete lack of character and courage as far as I’m concerned.
  7. I don’t understand people who think that yelling, insulting, threatening, and throwing temper tantrums are the signs of a good leader.  They aren’t.  The only reason people, myself included, put up with this kind of nonsense is that we have no choice.  At least not temporarily.  All the while I am agreeable to someone who is a verbally abusive boss or leader, I am silently bidding my time until I have an opportunity to where I no longer have to deal with them.  I have quit several jobs just because I got tired of dealing with abusive bosses.  And I refuse to go back to any job if I get the sense that a work place tolerates abusive bosses.  Thanks to my disability and my pension, I can say ‘screw you’ to bad bosses.  I am convinced if enough people could get several months worth of living expenses saved up and just start walking out on abusive and toxic workplaces in large numbers, we’d see these employers attitudes improve pretty fast.
  8. I never accepted why workplace politics are what they are.  Never have and I never will.
  9. Sometimes I am convinced that the adults act worse than the kids.  But it didn’t seem this way when I was growing up.  Maybe it’s something that goes in generational cycles.
  10. I don’t understand how weekly news and sports magazines are still a thing even after almost thirty years of the world wide web.
  11. I don’t understand why people still write checks.  I still have to write checks for my rent.  Irritates me to no end.  What century is this anyway?
  12. I don’t understand people who go on and on about the ‘good old days.’  When exactly were these good old days?  And if I make it to age seventy I’m sure I’ll hear some fools talking about the 2010s as ‘good old days.’  The good old days never existed.  They were just when you still had good health and weren’t held back by constant aches and pains.
  13. I’m glad I was never popular or cool.  I don’t want to be popular.  I just want to make people think.
  14. I don’t begrudge twenty somethings who still live with their parents.  Multi generational housing was more normal in previous eras than now.  Sometimes I would love to live with my elderly parents or my brother or my aunts.  At least we could look after each other easily.  And I wouldn’t have to deal with some of the screw balls and loose nuts who come with living in an apartment complex.
  15. At this point in my life, I’m tired of living in an apartment complex.  I would so buy my own house and not deal with land lords and close by neighbors if I could afford it.  I just want some privacy and not have people looking over my shoulders all the time anymore.  Dormitory living was more fun at age 19 than at age 39.
  16. I often fear that I don’t get through to people.
  17. I often fear my friends and family secretly don’t like me.  I hope it’s the illness talking.
  18. I sometimes go days at a time without leaving my apartment.  I’m just burned out on the stress of dealing with irritable, angry, and rude people all the time.  Socializing with most people is toxic for me anymore.  At this point I’d rather deal with a machine than most people.  At least machines won’t give me a hard time or tell me how bad of a person I am.  People sometimes suck.
  19. I love to sleep.  I’d sleep even more if I didn’t wake up with aches and pains every morning.

Routine Changes and Intellectual Pursuits With Mental Illness

Been staying home most of the time lately.  The weather is turning colder, like typical Nebraska Novembers.  We had our first snow a couple days before Halloween.  Even though I have essentially been cabin bound for several days, I don’t usually feel that lonely or irritable.

I have made a few changes to my routines.  I decided to give up on coffee, again.  Even the morning cup that was my standard for over fifteen years too often makes me irritable and twitchy.  I am sleeping longer too.  I usually go to bed around 9pm, wake up at 2am, work online or read until about 6am and then go back to sleep for another three hours.  I also usually nap for an hour in the afternoons.  It seems like I am sleeping some at least three times a day.  It may make it tough to get a lot done, but it does alleviate anxiety and allows me to declutter my mind.  I still sometimes get vivid dreams, but fortunately most are not scary or violent like they were in my early twenties.  Most just don’t make sense or they are the ones where I’m naked in public and no one seems to notice.  And I often have those dreams where I am back in school and I can’t find my classes or even open my locker.  Needless to say when I wake up and realize I’m in my late thirties again, I feel relieved.

Since I fazed out coffee and sleep more, I have found it takes more to make me irritable and distressed.  It also seems like I recover from aches and pains faster.  And I catch my breath quicker when I get winded now.  I don’t feel much for aches and pains when I stand for long periods of time, but I do find it annoying sometimes.  One of the reasons I started doing my shopping online was mainly because I got annoyed with standing in line for more than a couple minutes at a time.  The worst was when I was at the gas station and needing to pay for a tank of gas and I’d have several people ahead of me buying lottery tickets.  It was especially bad on the days of Powerball drawings.  I am convinced that lotteries are a tax on people who can’t do math.

I’ve also cut out as much sugar as possible.  I didn’t even buy candy for Halloween this year, not even for myself.  Then again, I enjoy watching people in costumes more now than I did even as a ten year old when I got to dress up.  Sugar was another thing that made me sluggish and occasionally irritable once the sugar rush burned off.

I am making friends with some of my neighbors.  I usually hear from them at least once a day.  For a small monthly fee, they’ll help me out with my laundry once a week as long as I provide the soap and laundry money.  They were also good enough to make dinner for me a few days ago.  While I do cook for myself, it’s usually simple things that don’t require a lot of ingredients.

Gotten back into listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I also listen to science and tech themed podcasts.  I occasionally listen to Joe Rogan if he’s interviewing a scientist or tech person.  I still avoid politics.  I have enough beliefs across the entire spectrum that is doesn’t qualify me for any traditional camp, party, or tribe.  So I catch flack from all sides just because I try to think for myself and am not dogmatic about my politics.  I swear politics has become like religion for far too many people.

I don’t post much on facebook anymore.  Then again, about the only people I hear from at all anymore are my best friend, a couple cousins, and a couple college instructors.  Even the tech groups, with only a few exceptions, have become fear mongers and hopeless these days.  Even tech enthusiasts are too often guilty getting their science news more from Hollywood and less from actual scientists.  I don’t read most science fiction and I don’t watch any science fiction shows just because they are so dystopic and such doom porn anymore.  No wonder most people are filled with fear and dread.

I try to tell people what’s actually going right (and far more is going well than not), but I’m just waisting my breath on everyone it seems.  About the only person who doesn’t think I’m a delusional liar is my own mother (and my best friend when she’s been doing well).  And even with her, I don’t know if she actually believes what I’m telling her or if she’s just humoring me.  And people wonder why I dropped out of society and don’t socialize much outside of close friends and family.  What’s the point of socializing if most people just suck the life and positivity out of you?  It seems that optimism and empathy are the modern rebellions.  It isn’t cool to be an optimist, but that may be just because we are years ahead of the curve.

People think I’m lucky because I’m on disability and don’t have to work a regular job.  While having freedom (at least to the extent the pension money doesn’t run out) is amazing, it is also a lonely life.  I spend most of my days reading, watching science lectures, lifting weights, listing to podcasts, but not much socializing.  It’s like this scholar I sometimes watch on youtube said, “If you seek the truth, the truth will set you free.  But it will also make you lonely.”  But I’d rather seek wisdom and knowledge than popularity and prestige.  I’ve felt this way my entire life.

I believe I now know what my purpose in life should be.  It is to be an independent scholar/philosopher.  Sure such work will mean I will never live a wealthy life.  Then again, some of the smartest and wisest people in history will never be known because they spent their lives in monasteries or libraries or lecture halls and laboratories.  And that is only if they were lucky.  Many more spent their lives never fitting in, seeing absurdities every where they went, and died frustrated and bankrupt.  Fortunately, the internet gives an outlet for people like me, who in previous eras would have had no options other than monasteries or academic life.  The true geniuses who drive progress may not be the billionaire entrepreneurs, but the engineers and scientists and instructors making the entrepreneurs visions possible.  I suppose people like that do the intellectual grunt work that make modern society possible.  Yet most people will never hear of them, much like no one hears of individual master carpenters or plumbers.