August 28 2019

Things have been improving with each passing day since my breakdown last week.  My sleeping habits have changed though.  I now usually sleep a few hours in the afternoon, stay awake until the early morning hours, sleep a few more hours, and am awake by 9am.  I think I’m getting back into my being a night owl routine.  I usually get like this in late summer or early fall.  For some odd reason I usually do my best sleeping in the afternoon and early a.m. hours, especially when the weather starts turning cooler.  Some years during the winter, I wouldn’t see the sun much because I usually slept in the daylight hours.

This has been a pretty long and stressful summer for me.  The spring was more stressful than usual too.  I was usually too stressed and paranoid to leave the apartment some days.  So I stayed home, rode my exercise bike, lifted weights, and caught up on sleep.  I think I have lost weight over the last five months.  I’ve also cut back on how much I eat yet I don’t feel like I’m starving myself.  I usually eat one large meal at lunch, always protein rich.  And then I have a small dinner, usually left overs from lunch.  I usually cook only once a day.  I’ve had fast food only a few times in the last year.  Now I have gone a week without coffee, I’m starting to cut down on caffeine.  Next time I shop, I’m buying tea instead of coffee.  Coffee just makes me to jittery and irritable anymore.

I’m still reading quite a bit, granted it’s still mostly online articles in science journals.  When I do read online newspapers, it’s usually something like New York Times, The Guardian, or Wall Street Journal.

As stressed as I was this summer, I wasn’t in much of a mood to watch a lot of baseball.  But with the Rockies having one of the lousiest records in the league, I wouldn’t have had much to cheer about anyway.  I spent much of my summer playing computer games, chatting with friends online and over the phone, and reading online articles.  I broke down and decided to renew my cable so I could get football games and the baseball playoffs.  The Huskers first game is this Saturday. We haven’t had much to celebrate the last few years.  But things are starting to look up.  When they hired Scott Frost to be the coach after 2017, it gave people real reason to hope for the first time in several years.  Hope things do turn around.

For the first time in months I feel really hopeful most of the time.  I spent most of this spring and summer at home, working out, eating healthier, taking vitamin supplements, and trying to get my physical health in order.  For years I had been tending to my mental and psychological health only to let my physical health slide, at least after my car accident back in 2015.  The last few years have been overly lonely and depressing.  And I felt I couldn’t really talk to anyone because of how angry and stressed most people seemed to be, especially online.  This truly bothered me as it is easier for me to socialize online than to just call someone up on the phone or go to their house.  That and most of my friends and family live out of town.  I hope after a few years of upheaval and distress, people by and large are learning how to tactfully interact online.  I lost some friends over the last few years because of everything that has gone on.  Hopefully, the madness is burning itself out.

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Thoughts on Preventing Relapse and End of Summer

After a few days of preventative maintenance and taking more note of my mental well being, I think the feelings of anxiety, irritability, and depression are starting to dissipate.  Sure I had to isolate for a couple days and I did sleep more than usual, but it seems to have worked.  Overall I’m feeling more stable and I did leave my complex a couple times yesterday just to get some sunshine and make sure my car still runs properly.  I don’t drive as much as I used to.  But then I can do most of my socializing at home via phone calls, social media, and my blog.  I don’t deal with nearly as much negativity as I once did.  Two years ago, it was almost unbearable.  But I have since learned who and what to avoid and I don’t closely follow anyone besides family, close friends, and discussion groups I’m interested in.  Thank goodness for the unfollow buttons.  I lost a few friends before I discovered what useful and tactful tools they could be.  Even though the tempers have cooled some since the darkest days, I’m still kind of afraid to reestablish contact with people I’ve cut out or have cut me out.  Hopefully it’s just the paranoia talking and not hard reality.

As it is anymore I rather enjoy staying home.  I sometimes don’t even mind hosting guests.  I’ve hosted college friends several times over the years.  And I even hosted the previous two Foster family Christmas celebrations.  The only real request I have is give me at bare minimum a few days notice.  I am self conscious about my place and have come to accept that no matter how much I do with it, it isn’t going to please anyone but me.  I never did just subjective crap like that when the goal line wasn’t universal but different for everyone.  Even in high school speech and one act plays, I didn’t care about the awards and trophies.  I mainly wanted to hear the audience laugh and think because of my performances.

I’m glad that summer is all but over.  We have had some cooler and cloudy days lately mixed in the excessive heat typical of a Nebraska August.  Makes me think that fall and winter are on the way.  And I’ve always done my best writing and creative work during the cold weather.  I also like some of the not so over the top Christmas decorations, New Year’s Day college football games, and being able to buy discounted chocolate after Valentine’s Day.  I think that winter and spring are my favorite times of year.  That is one thing I like about living in Nebraska; we get to experience all the seasons.  Sure we don’t have the beautiful foliage of New England, the massive snows of Minnesota, or summer in it’s full hot and humid glory like the Southern states, but we get a little of everything here.  And yes, the conditions of my mental illness do change with the seasons.  But I usually have my worst times in late summer and my best times in late winter and spring.  I do love the changes of the seasons.

Late Summers, Changes in Diet, and Mental Stability

Late summers have traditionally been a tough time for me dealing with mental illness.  I usually have to be real careful from late July to early September.  So far this year has been different.  It could be due to reducing my stress levels and avoiding stressful people and places.  It could be due to the medication changes I made a few months ago.  And it could be due to changes in my diet.  I now don’t eat much wheat or anything that’ll upset my stomach.  I have found that I feel better on days I don’t eat bread than on days I do.  I have had stomach problems in the past.  Stomach issues aren’t uncommon in people with depression and mental health issues.  I pretty much limit myself to lots of protein and vegetables anymore.  About the only grains I eat on a regular basis anymore are rice based foods.  Rice seems to be easier on me than wheat and other grains.

When I do go to restaurants I don’t order things like french fries or most other fried foods.  I do occasionally treat myself to chicken strips at KFC.  I have pretty much also cut out sugar too.  When I do crave caffeine, I usually opt for green tea, coffee, or diet soda.  I notice I’m less irritable on days I limit sugar consumption.  Easing back on the caffeine was tough the first several days as I would occasionally sleep more than I would like and sometimes experience slight headaches once a day.  But I think I have gotten past the worst of the caffeine withdrawal.  I used to drink four to six cups of coffee a day, certainly not healthy when dealing with mental health problems.

I have found myself eating more vegetables than usual.  Even when I order delivery pizza, I make it a point to get the mostly vegetable pizzas.  I don’t feel as weighed down and bloated after a few slices of vegetable pizza as compared to the all meats or cheeses pizzas.  Since I’m on a limited budget I have to be careful about buying fresh vegetables that won’t spoil within a couple days.  So I usually eat a can of vegetables every days, usually green peas or green beans.  I have had some good sweet corn, a Midwest late summer tradition.  When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to have sweet corn with dinner three nights  a week during the month of August.  Most of our meals during late summer involved locally grown sweet corn, tomatoes from our garden, and bacon sandwiches.  My parents have introduced my nephews and niece to this August tradition too, even though it will be another few years before the kids develop a taste for tomatoes.

Overall I have felt really decent this summer.  I don’t have much drama to report.  I’m glad that the push for the playoffs in baseball is starting.  I’m also looking forward to the start of football season here in the US in a few weeks.  Fall practice has already begun and school will be starting again in a few days.  I saw that many countries started their soccer seasons this weekend.  I have made a habit of following the US national team since the last World Cup.  I hope we make it to the next one coming up in 2018.  Since the World Cup will be hosted by Russia next summer, I imagine I’ll be watching soccer at a lot of odd hours to adjust for the time differences.  I have kind of gotten into soccer as I have two nephews and a niece who play the game.  Even as a kid I was a slow runner but  didn’t mind getting hit or hitting others.  So that’s why I played football in high school. So that’s why I still watch football in the falls.  But we have made it through the long stretch of summer and fall will be here soon.  It helps that it has been cooler than usual the last several days in my part of the US.  Makes me hopeful for fall and the return of cooler weather.

A Sense of Calm with Mental Illness

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It’s been a quiet and calm week for me.  I can tell the weather is starting to cool and that autumn is only a few weeks away.  School has already started in my hometown.  I was at the Wal Mart on 10pm on a Friday night and the place was packed with high school and college students doing last minute back to school shopping.  Years ago when I was in school, it seemed like the place to be on the weekend before school started was parties that amounted to the last fling of summer.  Maybe the younger people today have better priorities than what previous generations had.  It was also the first time I used a self check out machine.  Just scanned my items, swiped my debit card, and bagged my purchases and left.  Sure this may put some cashiers out of work but who dreams about being a cashier working for minimum wage when they are kids?

From about early July to the first week of September has traditionally been rugged times for me.  Both times I checked myself into a mental health hospital were in early September.  Many of my major flare ups and breakdowns have come in July and August.  The first time my parents saw me break down was around Independence Day back in 2000.  I didn’t have the serious breakdown last summer besides yelling out a store clerk in early July (which I immediately apologized for).  Originally I thought I didn’t have the breakdown last summer because I had extra resiliency because of my grandmother’s death.  Besides yelling at one friend over the phone for a couple minutes and writing a nasty email to a second friend last month, I really haven’t had many problems this summer.

I still don’t go out as much as I had previously.  Anymore I’m somewhat content to just stay home, read books, write blogs, play computer games, and Facebook with friends. I call friends and family on the phone almost daily.  I am having more frequent and longer conversations with my best friend from college.  We usually call each other every Sunday night and chat.  For the first several months after he got married I kind of backed off and just gave him and his wife their space.  He’s a huge history and sports geek (just like I am) so it’s not uncommon for us to be discussing baseball statistics, the ancient Greeks, 19th century German philosophy, and American foreign policy within the same phone conversation.  I love people like that.  Tragically I don’t find many people with those kinds of interest.  My old friend Pastor Verne was one of those types.  He was fluent in both ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek from his days in seminary.  He was a brilliant man.  I’m glad I got to know him.  I hope to be that interesting and sharp if I ever make it to that age.

I got my insurance settlement this weekend.  I wasn’t planning on anything extra from the accident besides getting my car fixed and coverage of my medical bills.  But I am now sitting on top of a wind fall I wasn’t really expecting.  I imagine most of it is going into the emergency fund.  One of the positives of being debt free is I don’t have the pressure of having to make payments every month.  It feels good to not have debts, to have an emergency fund, and a few options.  Those are the best stress busters I have ever found.

As this is a lazy Saturday afternoon in late August I currently have a college football game on in the background as I’m writing this  Football is one of my guilty pleasures.  I’m not obsessed over it but I do like to have a game going on in the background on idle fall weekend afternoons.  I do kind of feel bad about watching young men maim themselves for my enjoyment.  But at least it’s not as violent as Roman gladiators fighting.  I can tell that summer is all but over now that I’m watching a football game.  From the Summer Olympics to fall football within a few days of each other.

 

Looking Forward To Fall

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Now that my back has completely healed I’ve been getting out of my apartment more the last couple weeks.  At my most recent doctor’s appointment I found out I gained 15 pounds this summer.  Most of this is no doubt due to lack of physical activity and my eating too much comfort foods.  I did spend  this summer with alternating periods of depression and irritability.  I spent too much time indoors and exercising my mind and not enough exercising my body.  In short, this summer has been a loss in terms of physical health and activity.  The only positive of this summer is that I’m posting more on this blog and have gotten some more audience.

But fall is just a few weeks away.  I can already tell the days are getting shorter.  We also are no longer having several days in a row with nothing but scorching heat.  Looking ahead I see that we’re supposed to have some more cooler weather over the next several days.  I have spent most of my afternoons indoors avoiding the heat.  Since I spent the first month of summer on the mend I never adjusted to the warmer weather.  I normally have bad times during the summer.  Besides the blow ups on a couple friends I haven’t had any real serious problems this summer.  I know that I still have another three to four weeks of traditionally bad times ahead.  Hopefully I can make it through without anything else major.  I made it through last summer before having problems in October but I think working through my grandmother’s death made me more resilient because I had no options.  So my problems last year weren’t avoided as much as they were delayed.  So far things look good mentally.

I have been bored by the forced inactivity this summer.  Besides seeing my family a few times I really haven’t had much for social activity since Memorial Day.  But with the weather starting to get cooler and the nights starting to get longer, maybe my social activities will increase in the coming weeks.  I admit I am not sorry to see this summer go. I’m ready for cooler weather again.