Hope After A Mental Breakdown

Had a bad breakdown a few days ago.  I am quite sure, after twenty years with a mental illness, there is a seasonal aspect to my illness.  I regret having breakdowns and I especially regret taking my breakdowns out on people I love.  I had felt it coming on for awhile and then it finally broke a few days ago.  I hope this is the last one for a long time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just sob and cry my way out of a breakdown rather than lash out and be angry.  I don’t know how much of that is just my personal illness, or always being told a man showing emotions is a sign of weakness, etc. But it’s part of the illness and part of the price of admission into adulthood.

In spite of the illness, and the contradictions and nonsense I am fed on a daily basis by society and popular culture, I do my best to not let this crush my spirit or kill my love for my fellow humans.  I know I am often harsh and short tempered with my fellow humans, and my countrymen in particular.  But, contrary to popular belief, I do not hate humans or my countrymen.  It’s the polar opposite actually.  I love humanity and I love my country and my countrymen.  I see the cool things we have accomplished in the past and are accomplishing on a daily basis.  I see the potential for greatness every day.  And yes, it does bother me when I see people not living up to that potential greatness.  I am tough on people, not because I hate them, but because I believe everyone can excel at least one thing and I can’t stand to see a person waste their potential and time.  I am often tough on my family members because I know they are capable of excellence and have often shown it, especially in times of crisis.  I’m sorry but I don’t have much respect for mediocre work and apathy.

A significant portion of the time when I’m reading science journals online or articles on sites like Bloomberg, CNN, Wall Street Journal, etc. I have to remind myself that this isn’t the science fiction it was when I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I saw the movie Fight Club the other night, and even though the movie was popular when I was in college, I was amazed how people still used land based phone lines, phone booths, primitive looking desktop computers, and even how many people smoked in a movie that came out in the late 1990s.  I personally haven’t had a land phone line since 2007 or 2008 I think.  I haven’t had a desktop computer in 10 years.  And even this year, I was able to email my bank statements and tax information and social security information to my landlady to renew my lease.  All I had to do in person was sign a few documents and pass an annual room inspection.  And since I now have a cleaning lady who drops in once a week, spruces the place up, and allows me to chat with her while she works, the whole process took about a half hour of my time.

I sometimes overlook the progress my fellow humans, myself, and civilization in general has made when I’m bogged down in the day to day struggle.  But when I take a step back and look at it over the course of a few years, it’s quite amazing and gives me hope.  I get even more hope and feel in awe when I look back at over what has happened in the life time of our current crop of world leaders and elders in my life.  I know I am often too harsh on my elders.  I know I need to cut them more slack when I look back and think about all the changes they saw since their childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.  My father can remember his family being one of the first in his hometown to own a black and white television.  And his uncles used to come out to my grandfather’s farm just to watch the test patterns in the evenings.  Both my parents were typing their high school and even college term papers on electric typewriters.  My mother keeps and old style manual typewriter as a decoration in her house and my eight year old nephew is aghast that people used to write on those things.

I also have to remember that, for some of the elders, old Jim Crow laws and criminalization of things like homosexuality, inter racial marriages, and sex outside of marriage were the law of the land in many places until as recently as the 1970s.  Sure, it feels like some people are backsliding at times.  But the forces at work against such backsliding are far more overwhelming than they would have been even forty years ago.

I can’t even begin to imagine what I will see if I make it to age seventy, if I’m privileged enough to make it that far.  That will be in the year 2050.  I’ve seen some scientists predict everything from bases on the moon and Mars, driverless cars being almost everywhere, nuclear fusion based electricity, to where we no longer use oil and gasoline for transport, to even people augmented their physical strength and mental powers through computer based implants and prosthetic and Iron Man type suits.  I guess I don’t know if I want someone rooting around in my skull planting in chips or injecting me full of blood cell sized machines (at least not right now), but I definitely wouldn’t mind something I could wear that would make me smarter or stronger that I could turn off or take off at a moment’s notice.

Even as much as I love science and tech, I am still adjusting to what is happening and what can be.  And only the best minds in science fiction would have even imagined such things that we are working on now when my father was a kid and reading Dick Tracy comic books in the 1950s.  I know eventually I will be the old man that has trouble keeping up.  I imagine even now my nephews would think it odd I don’t know how to run a 3D printer or a VR headset machine.  My twelve year old nephew set up a flight simulator game on VR for my father (a licensed pilot and former Air Force man) recently that my father occasionally uses.

I don’t know what the future holds, certainly not in terms of working.  The only advice I give to my nephews and niece is ‘stay flexible.’  No one knows.  Maybe people like Mark Cuban will be proven right and that the humanities and arts degrees we have called ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’ degrees for a couple generations will be in as much demand in ten years as STEM and medical degrees are now.  Even though I majored in business in college, I am grateful I took some time to read a lot of philosophy and classical literature when I was young and had more energy.  And I was able to do it for free via my college’s library.  Levitt Library on the York College campus was a second home for me when I was college.  If I wasn’t at my dorm room studying, I could easily be found in the library or with a few buddies discussing philosophy, football strategies, history, or even medieval military tactics at the all night truck stop over chicken fried steaks and 99 cent unlimited cups of coffee.

In spite of my recent melt down, I am hopeful again.  Zig Ziglar was right when he said that positive attitudes and behavior is like taking baths every day, it requires daily maintenance.  No one gets mad when they are extra dirty some days, they just bathe for a little longer.  And of course, some days are dirtier and tougher than others.

Advertisements

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.

Early Thanksgiving and Changes

Hosted my parents for an early Thanksgiving celebration last Sunday.  They brought the food and I provided the place.  They spent most of the day here.  I also received a stationary exercise bike from them.  Since they are moving to a suburb and are getting rid of some of the things they have no need for now, I got an exercise bike and a couple desk chairs from them.  Used the exercise bike a few times already.  It’s good to be exercising regularly again.  I had fallen out of the daily exercise habit after my back started flaring up a few months ago.  I was pleasantly surprised that peddling on a stationary bike doesn’t hurt my back like walking does.  Used to be most of my exercise was walking in the park or old downtown.  I would usually walk the hallways in my apartment complex when it was too icy or cold to walk outside.  But I’m starting to feel more decent after only a few days of regular exercise again.

While I enjoyed hosting my parents for Thanksgiving, it was also a bittersweet gathering.  That was the last time I get to see them when they are living nearby.  Even as much as I don’t like driving, I could still get in my car and be at their house in less than two hours.  But now that they are moving I won’t be getting to see them on a whim.  At least until I find a low income place that’s not in a tough neighborhood.  I may have to find a place in a small town nearby if the places in the city and the suburbs are too questionable.  I have been lucky to have had the good luck with low income housing that I have experienced in the last twelve years.  I’ve been fortunate to have good managers who will quickly and decisively deal with people who don’t pay the rent or are troublemakers.  I don’t have any true complaints about my complex.  I can be left alone when I want to be.  I can socialize when I want to.  And most people don’t give me problems and I try to avoid being a problem for others.  It’s seemed to work or I wouldn’t still be here after twelve years.  The only place I’ve lived in longer than my current apartment is my childhood home.

I haven’t bee out much for the last few days.  I guess I’m still adapting to my parents moving to be near my brother and his family.  I hope to be joining them eventually.  But right now I probably won’t be making any moves, at least not until the end of winter.

August 4, 2018

Even though we still have officially six weeks of summer left, it’s starting to feel like autumn is just around the corner.  I’m seeing back to school sales and getting fliers for said sales in my mail on almost a daily basis.  One of my neighbors has tomato and pepper pants in the back yard of our apartment complex and they are looking almost ready for harvest.  My parents have kept tomato plants as far back as I can remember and we always had fresh tomatoes every August.  A friend of mine from out of state and her husband grow tomatoes and peppers to make fresh salsa.  I should sweet talk them into sending me a jar one of these soon days.  School for my nephews and niece starts in two weeks.  Soon I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons watching college football.  I guess I always preferred the college game to the pros, if for no other reason, Nebraska isn’t big enough to support pro teams.

Mentally I still feel quite stable.  And I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I usually eat two large protein rich meals per day and drink mostly only water and coffee.  I don’t even buy bread anymore as I have cut most grains out of my diet.  I don’t eat much for dairy besides Greek yogurt and occasionally cheddar cheese.  But my diet mostly consists of baked and grilled lean meats and fresh vegetables.  I saw an online article featuring a former pro football player who lost over 100 pounds in a year and all he was doing was eating grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, lots of water, and lifting weights three times a week.  While I don’t count on such excellent results, it doesn’t hurt to aim big.  I feel like I’ve made much progress since Independence Day, exactly one month ago today.

I socialize in person more now.  Most days I leave my apartment at least once daily, if to just check the mail or buy a Diet Coke from the ground floor vending machine.  I usually drive my car three times a week just to keep it loose and ready to go.  Still haven’t made any road trips this summer besides going to my parents’ house a couple times.

I am still mentally stable.  I am usually in bed by midnight and awake by nine a.m. most days.  I avoid drama and pointless arguments as much as possible now.  Overall I feel well.  I haven’t felt this well for such a prolonged time period in a few years.  And I love it.

I’m glad that summer is almost over.  I always enjoyed autumn more than summer.  I look forward to the cooler weather, the turning leaves, the farmers’ markets, fall football,  playoff baseball, and the college kids returning to town.  My town really comes to life during the falls and springs when the college is in session.  I can hardly wait.

End of Winter and Desires for Travel

Today was the first day in weeks we had warm weather.  I had to get outside to enjoy it.  This has been a tougher than usual winter.  I spent a lot of time indoors and hibernating because of the bad cold spells and snow storms.  Now that it’s almost March I can see the beginning of the end of winter.  And I am not sorry at all to see winter on it’s way out.

Been spending too much time indoors and isolating.  There were times I would go entire days without leaving my apartment.  With as bad as the weather was, it seemed pointless to just wander the halls.  There were days I would sleep sometimes as much as twelve hours a day just out of boredom.  Unfortunately I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have liked this winter.  And I was lazy about writing for the last few weeks.  While I have been stable mentally this winter, this was probably because I wasn’t doing much to invite troubles.  I lost some of my social contacts from isolating and staying home so much this winter.  Hopefully I can get those reestablished soon.

I still hear from old friends and family a couple times a week.  Not as often as I would like, but I get that most people don’t have as much free time as I do.  Mental illness essentially sent me into early retirement right about when my friends’ careers were taking off.  Most of my friends now are married and have kids.  I have as much freedom as anyone I know and yet I don’t get to share it very often.  It’s a shame that most of my best friends from the past live out of state.  I do have online friends from my discussion groups, but many of them live in other countries.  I’ll probably never get to meet them in person even though I have far more in common with these friends than I do most people in my own hometown.

I would love to travel more but I absolutely can’t stand driving anymore.  And flying airlines anymore is about as enjoyable as going to the dentist for root canal work.  I have friends scattered to the four winds I haven’t seen since college graduation that I would give almost anything to see even for a few days.  Since some of the old friends live in foreign countries I’d have to get a passport.  I don’t know what Social Security’s rules are for disabled people traveling overseas and collecting disability pension.  But I guess those dreams of travel and seeing old friends will stay in the realm of pipe dreams probably forever.  I’ll just have to do the next best thing and socialize online I suppose.

Changes In Interests With Mental Illness

school201

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.

 

Change of Season, Change of Mood, Change With Age

The weather is cooling off, especially over the last few days.  The nights are almost as long as the days now, some farmers are beginning the harvest, farmers’ markets are open all over the place, and I’m getting outside more.  I’ve had my windows open the last few days and I’ve pretty much stopped using my air conditioner.  Yes the change of seasons is upon us.

I for one am glad that summer is over.  Mentally I’m just not very stable during the summers.  And I never could figure out why.  I didn’t experience any true tragedies or trauma as a child.  I was bullied in school but I know kids who got it worse than I did.  I’m thinking many of my problems during the summers stem from dealing with the heat and humidity.  I never did like hot weather.  I like spring in the fact that there are still cool days but not weeks on end of hot weather.  And I like fall because of the cooling weather, the fall leaves, and I’ve always enjoyed fall activities more than summer.  I’m sure that being overweight doesn’t help in dealing with hot summers, let alone dealing with a mental illness.

Mentally I was more stable this summer than most previous summers.  Even though I couldn’t do much with a bad back I was still pretty stable for the most part.  Now that I’m healed from my back I am getting outside more.  I am also eating less too.  I can tell my stamina is coming back, more slowly than I would like but it’s still coming back.  I think that I have made it through the roughest part of the year already.  I hope that things keep getting better.

I have noticed a few changes with my mental illness over the last few years.  I can tell that things that used to bother me real bad don’t bother me as much.  If I had dealt with a problem a few years ago, I’d be angry for an hour or two.  Now I’m over such things in only a couple minutes.  I’ve become more accepting of the illness now.  I’ve accepted that I’ll never have a great career or a family of my own.  This used to bother me real bad as recently as five years ago.  Now I’ve just accepted it and planned accordingly.  Since I see that many of my friends are having problems at their jobs and marriages, I’m actually thankful in some regards that I never got to go that route.  I have the problems of a mental illness but I don’t have the problems of a stressful job and hectic married life.  I have a mental illness but I don’t have as much stress and pointless drama as my friends.  And I love it.  I don’t have much money or prestige but I do have peace of mind.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.