Finding A Life’s Purpose With A Mental Illness

Feeling pretty decent overall the last several days.  About the only real issue I have right now is that I prefer to be awake at night and sleep during the days.  I still get outside a little everyday, usually in the late afternoons or early evenings.  I don’t socialize as much as I have in years past.  But it seems to me that most people have been in fouler than usual moods for the last several months.  I have abandoned Facebook and twitter, except for my blog, entirely because I am tired of dealing with all the anger and negativity.  I have enough chaos going on in my own mind.  I won’t be part of anyone else’s.  Seriously, is it so tough to be in a decent mood?  If I as a mentally ill man can force myself into it for much of the time, surely normal people can.  Maybe the reason I feel decent is because I am avoiding people in general.

I admit I’m doing less in some areas in my late 30s than I did even a few years ago.  Right now, I have no desire to travel anywhere.  I have no desire to ever hold a traditional job again.  I have zero desire for a dating relationship.  I prefer to be left alone most of the time.  I have less tolerance for rude and reckless people.  And I am definitely sick of hearing nothing but negativity all the time. At the same time, I keep in more contact with good friends.  I read more.  I do more brain building activities.  I rarely watch tv.  I make it a point to not watch the news channels (I can’t wait for those dinosaurs to go extinct).  I don’t measure myself by my job or how much money I have.  Not having a lot of money is not a big deal to me.  I always hated the statement, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  What a stupid idea.  It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a regular job.  It definitely doesn’t bother me that my sweat and toil is no longer making someone else more money than it makes me.  I suppose I never was going to make it as a corporate man.  And I definitely couldn’t make it as a politician.  I’m too honest and I don’t always tell people what they want to hear.

I can’t understand why so many people stay in jobs they hate or stay in toxic relationships.  I am fortunate to have some friends who don’t make a lot of money yet they love what they do, namely my friends who became teachers. I have some other friends who yes, they can’t stand their jobs, but they also have side hustles that could or have turned profitable.  One friend of mine worked as a gas station clerk until she finally decided to move to a different town and start her own business out of her basement.  I left my last “real job” in an attempt to concentrate more on my writing and self education.  These blogs are the children of those efforts.  And I wouldn’t want to do anything else, at least not at this current point.

Sure I made more money working as a janitor and factory hand in years past, but I have a much further reach with these mental health blogs.  Every day I have visitors from outside the USA. I’d say at least a quarter of my readers are not from my country. I hear from people of all ages, backgrounds, careers, etc. because of this work.  I get to talk to people of different lifestyles and cultures and I don’t even have to put on shoes or leave my apartment.  It’s a great job for me and my situations.  Sure it took years of struggle and sadness to get to this level of acceptance to where I can speak freely about my struggles with schizophrenia.  But once it became clear to me in my mid twenties that the mental illness would not allow me to hold a regular career, I found out that time was an great asset I possessed.  It was just a matter of how I was going to spend the next years of my life.  I could have easily become bitter and just dropped out entirely.  But with my love of writing and unnaturally high levels of empathy and compassion, I couldn’t be content doing that.  Once I learned that blogging could be a way of putting a human face on a mysterious and terrifying affliction, I decided to pursue this.  I had never heard of blogging until I was in college.  But it is something I am regularly doing and will continue to regularly do. I wonder how many other career paths will be created in the next 15 to 20 years that most people can’t yet imagine.

Once it became clear that my mental illness wasn’t going to allow me to have a regular career, I started pouring more efforts into my writing hobby.  At the time I thought I just had to write some big selling novels.  I wrote rough drafts for a couple novels but they never went anywhere.  I wrote poetry, but who really makes money at being a poet?  Finally I turned to nonfiction blogging because there was a need for what I am doing that wasn’t really going filled.  I guess that’s the mark of any good artist or business person, find a need not being met and filling said need.  I guess out of this blog I was able to salvage something positive out of what could have become a senseless tragedy.

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Changes In Interests With Mental Illness

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Over the years of working with schizophrenia I have had to reinvent myself a few times.  When I was first diagnosed in 2000, I was a wreck.  I pretty much left my dorm room only to go to classes and go to the mess hall twice a day.  I couldn’t concentrate in classes or doing homework for longer than a couple minutes at a time.  I was trying different medications twice a month just hoping to find something that would work.  As a result of these struggles I had to drop out of my pre med major.  I even had to take a semester off from college because I was in danger of flunking out entirely.  After a few months off the academic grind and finally finding some medications that worked well, I was able to return to school be it with a different major.  I decided to do business management because I really knew little about money and business and thought I could find a job in that field once I recovered.  I never did completely recover but I did graduate college with a business degree.

After a year of working in sales I tried my hand at getting a masters’ in business.  At the time my dream was to teach basic economics and personal finance at a small college.  That was before I realized how tough it was to get tenure and that the majority of junior college instructors are not full time.  After two semesters in the program my grades were hurting enough that I lost my graduate assistant job.  I could have stayed in the program but I would have to go deep into debt.  So I left the program.  After my failing to become a college instructor, I got a job in a factory.  It was simple enough work but I couldn’t adapt to the overnight hours and my work suffered as a result.  Two months of this I decided I would put in for a transfer to morning shift.  I was denied so I quit.  It also didn’t help that I was threatened by one of my coworkers with violence because of my mistakes.  A few years later I heard that the factory was shut down.  So many people lost their jobs, probably due to automation.  It made me kind of thankful I didn’t stick it out with that job.

About the same time I failed at the factory, I applied for disability pension.  It took two years to get approved for it, and that was even after I hired an attorney to fast track the process.  Here I was with a mental illness that clearly ruined my ability to work and I was getting to where I was running out of money.  Shortly after I gave up on the factory, I moved into low income housing because that was all I could afford.  I could have moved back with my parents but the mental health care in that rural of an area was quite primitive.  And I was too embarrassed to face the people of my hometown with a mental illness.  Ten years ago there was even less understanding about mental illness than there is now.  Small town gossip is vicious and unavoidable.  I didn’t like living in my parents’ town as a kid because I never fit in and my skills sets weren’t conducive to a farming dominated economy.  I may live in a town of about 40,000 people (which isn’t big compared to many places) but it has far more to offer than my parents’ town of less than 500 people.  I just didn’t want to go back home, admit defeat, and face the scorn of the people of my hometown.  To this day I still won’t go back for class reunions or alumni events.  Too many people just don’t want to accept that mental illness is real.

As a result of having to abandon my childhood hometown, I had to find other means of socializing.  That’s about the time I signed up for a Facebook account.  The majority of my contacts on Facebook are with people I met in college.  I don’t have that many friends from my old grade school and high school days.  I hear from really only one of my friends from my high school days on a regular basis anymore.  One of my best friends from junior high I haven’t talked to in over ten years.  Some of my classmates I haven’t seen since graduation.  But I did enjoy college much more than high school, even if it was a religious school and I was beginning to question the teachings and dogmas of the religion grew up with even back then.  The majority of my friends from college are still in the same denomination I grew up in, but they seem to be understanding on why I don’t attend church anymore.  I haven’t been a regular in church in almost ten years.  It just seems ineffective and pointless.  People have been praying for cures for illnesses and deliverance from  danger for centuries.  Sometimes they get what they want, sometimes they don’t with no rhyme or reason behind it.  I guarantee the early Christians being fed to lions in Roman coliseums were praying like mad, just like the Jews in Nazi occupied Europe, or the people killed in every other crisis.  I gave up on organized religion once I came to realize that if there is a God (and let’s be honest, no one knows for exactly sure), than God was hap hazard in spreading the blessings and curses around.  If my friends and family want to continue going to church and believing what they do, I refuse to stand in the way.  I just won’t partake.

Once I left religion and made up my mind I would never marry, I had to find other outlets for socializing.  I joined writers’ groups, I took part in mental illness support groups, I volunteered at a museum for a summer, I started writing seriously, I worked on a blog with an old high school friend of mine, I wrote the rough outline for what would be this blog, I wrote rough drafts for two novels, I wrote hundreds of poems and even got a few of them published, I self published my mental illness writings and poems and sold a few dozen copies of those through local bookstores, I made friends with fellow artists and writers, I made friends with a few smart and eccentric people even in Section 8 housing.

Sadly several of my old friends in my apartment complex died in the last couple years.  I left my job at the county courthouse once I found out I could live on my disability pension and could get serious about writing.  Several months after I left my job at the courthouse I started this blog.  As the months went on I started getting a bit of an audience.  I found out I have a talent for putting ideas and words into written form.  At first I did this blog only every two weeks.  I was getting a few readers that way.  After a year I decided to post once a week.  I started getting more readers and some feedback.  Found out I was fulfilling a niche in the writing market that many people don’t know exists.

Mental illness is a problem that isn’t going to be swept under the rug anymore.  With more people feeling stressed about possibly losing their jobs to automation and globalization, people my age bracket and younger realizing that in spite their best efforts they won’t have as nice of a house or the job security of their parents and grandparents, and people just being depressed and stressed about the changes and crisises going on that we hear all about because of mass communications, mental health issues are going to be affecting more people.  And I’m writing about life with mental health issues, not having traditional employment, and having to make meaning and purpose in my life inspite all that has happened in the last twenty years.  And I will continue to post these blogs.  I don’t care if I make a dime off my writing anymore.  Most writers don’t make anything off their writings anyway.  I just want these writings to stick around for a long time and maybe make a positive difference for those affliceted with mental illness and their loved ones.