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.

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Sleep and Warding off Depression

Been quite rainy and overcast the last few days.  I do enjoy this kind of weather, especially as a break from the dry heat that is typical of late August and early September.    This kind of weather seems to a good excuse to pull up a blanket while sitting in my recliner and reading a book.

Still sleeping more than usual.  But this time it’s not that I’m awake all night and then I sleep all day like I had in the past.  As it is now, I’ll usually sleep five hours in the night, wake at sunrise, fall asleep after being awake for a couple hours and sleep until noon, be awake for a few hours, nap a little in the late afternoon, and then start the cycle all over again.  It does make it tougher to accomplish errands and daytime tasks, but I still feel pretty good over all.

Not only have I been sleeping more, I’ve been sleeping deeper.  I sometimes wake up disoriented and not even aware I fell asleep.  I dream more too.  Fortunately most of my dreams are either halfway pleasant or just make no sense but aren’t scary.  I used to get real bad nightmares in my early and twenties where I’d wake up in a startled panic.  Haven’t had one of those in years.  It’s a gradual process enacting positive changes.  But I’m glad that problems can changes and that we can adapt.  I used to consider naps a punishment, but sometimes a good nap can be the highlight of my afternoon.

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.

Letting Go

It has been said, I think it was in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’, that “in order to move forward, you have to leave the past behind” or something along the same idea.  I admit to having problems with letting go of what happened in my younger years, especially during times when my mental illness flares up especially bad.  During such times I have a very hard time coming to accept that my life did not turn out how I remotely imagined it would when I was sixteen and looking ahead to the vast expanse of years that was ahead.  At that age, I pictured that I would be doing something in medical research and married with at least a couple of children and living in some large metroplex by the time I turned 35.  Like many intelligent kids that could be classified as somewhat ‘nerdy’, I dreamed of the day I would move out of my hometown of less than 500 people and onto bigger and better things.  Like most of the few close friends I had, I so desperately wanted out of Nebraska.  I figured there was nothing here for me in the science and medicine fields and I would be wasting my life if I stayed behind.  Well, time has a way of making fools of even the smartest of us.

I never left Nebraska while all the friends from high school I stayed in contact with did.  In fact, none of the friends I made in college stayed in state either.  I didn’t end up working in any scientific or medical field for even one day of my life.  I certainly never got married or had kids.  I never even worked in a job that would require me to graduate high school for any real length of time, and I essentially failed at those jobs.  In spite of my illness, I retained almost all of my natural intelligence even though now my ability to work under stress and read anyone ‘between the lines’ was completely gone.  Any of these instances, let alone all of these put together, were serious blows to my pride and ego.

For the first several years of my mental illness, I agonized over where I went wrong.  I retained my natural intelligence yet I couldn’t do well in even minimum wage work.  It was baffling to my caseworkers at Vocational Rehab that I was so smart yet couldn’t handle any real stress.  For a long time, I thought I just wasn’t working hard enough and that work was supposed to suck.  I had spent my entire life hearing adults complain about their jobs as if their misery was something they took pride in.  So I just tried harder and attempted to abandon any idea that I was supposed to enjoy work or even life for that matter.  In time I came to believe I was doomed to be a failure at working a regular job.

For the next couple of years, I threw myself into my writing.  I was working part time at the courthouse as a janitor by this time.  I came to believe that the only way I could ‘make something of myself’ was to write a decent selling book.  I knew that the odds were against me as less than one percent of even published writers would make above poverty level if they relied solely on their writing work.  Well, that didn’t work either.  I self published a couple books of poetry, a book about my experiences as a mentally ill person in a ‘chronically sane world’, and even wrote rough drafts for two novels.  Found out the hard way that I have almost no talent for writing fiction.  I don’t even like reading fiction, especially modern fiction.  Even though I sold a few dozen copies of my mental illness book, the others didn’t sell at all.  So for a few years after that, I felt like a failure as a writer.

Now that the traditional writer door had been rudely slammed in my face, I became very depressed and angry.  I couldn’t understand what was the point of retaining my intelligence and not being able to use my abilities to even support myself, let alone help others.  I couldn’t figure any of this out.  I just couldn’t let go of what this illness cost me.  Occasionally I still find myself angry over what I lost.  I had the example of what I could have, and should have, been in the person of my older brother.  He is currently working as an electrical engineer for a defense contractor, making more money per year in his mid 30s than my parents ever made at any point in their careers, living in a excellent neighborhood in a metroplex outside of our home state, married to an intelligent woman (who also is an engineer), and has four children that he’s absolutely devoted to.

I suppose it’s wrong to be envious of him, though a part of me sometimes is.  I know as kids, I actually got better grades in school and read more books than he did.  When I’m in the grips of my mental illness, I often find myself thinking our lives could have been similar.  When I’m seriously in the grips of the illness and feeling nothing but anger and hostility, I find myself thinking our lives could have been easily reversed with me doing the work of my dreams and him being mentally ill.  Fortunately that doesn’t happen often.

When I’m not caught in the grasp of the illness, I find it very easy to let go of my past and move forward.  I have found an outlet of sorts though blogging.  Sure I don’t have thousands of visitors every day like some blogs here on wordpress.  No I’m not known outside of my family, my current hometown, my handful of friends, and people who follow and/or happen to stumble on these writings.  No, I haven’t made even one cent off these writings on this blog.  Sure, I’m dependent on the government for my medications and even my living.  Yet, when I am doing well, I have completely accepted all the aspects of my mental illness and have moved forward.  It is now only the small minority of times when I’m in the grips of the illness that I have to worry about stumbling and dwelling on everything that has happened over the last twenty years.

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.

 

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.

Thoughts on Late Summer and My Life’s Work

The time between July 1st and middle September has traditionally been the toughest time of year for me.  I can expect at least one major psychotic break during this time of year every year.  That is the way it has been ever since I was diagnosed with a mental illness in 2000.  The first time my parents witnessed me having a psychotic breakdown was in the summer of 2000.  I committed myself to a mental hospital in September 2006 and again in September 2013.  I had a bad breakdown in August 2014 when I almost committed myself.  If it would have went on for another two hours I would have gone to the hospital.  Late summers have been tough for me my entire adult life.

It’s not uncommon for people with mental health issues to have times of year that are tougher for them than usual.  Many people often feel depressed and sad during the darker winter months.  But my toughest times have always been during the late summers, usually around the time the school year starts.  Where I went to school, we usually started the third week of August rather than wait until early September.  My therapist has suggested maybe the idea of school starting again brings me added anxiety and aggravation.

I really didn’t enjoy school that much even back in grade school.  I hated the social aspects of school from about second grade on.  And sometimes I was bored in class because much of what was covered I had read on my own already.  I was not popular at all in school.  I was essentially the non athlete who was not socially savy enough to hide the fact that he was smart.  I got a real hard time for years because I didn’t like sports and I loved reading.  The close friends I had experienced the same thing.  Since I went to a really small school, I just couldn’t hide out with other nerdy kids.  As a result I never developed traditionally nerdy interests.  I have never bought a comic book. The only real science fiction I like is Star Trek.  I don’t like fantasy novels and movies.  I never played Dungeons and Dragons.  I can’t program or build computers.  I wasn’t socially savy enough to fake interest in popular culture and sports.  I played football only because I was big.  If I wasn’t 6’2″ and 270 pounds  I would have never made the team.  I was usually the slowest man on the team and I couldn’t even bench press my own body weight.

Besides my best friend (who was female) I didn’t date much in high school.  There were rumors that I was homosexual because I did so poorly at dating.  It wasn’t a matter of not getting a second date, it was a matter of not even getting a first one.  Needless to say all of this effected my outlook and probably my personality.  One of the reasons I went to a college where no one from my high school attended was so I could rebuild and start over.  Even though I was going through the worst of my mental illness in college, it was far more bearable socially because I wasn’t the only odd man on campus.  I was in an environment for once in my life I wasn’t penalized for being smart.  I met some people so smart even I couldn’t keep up with them.  I also met people who were C average students in high school suddenly pulling all A’s because they had a purpose for once in their lives.  I met people even quirkier and eccentric than I.  I still didn’t date much but years later I found out there were a few women who wanted me to ask them out.  Had I not been so badly burned in junior high and high school, I might have picked up that these women were interested in me.

As it is now, at age 36, I have lost all interest in dating.  I am more focused on blogging, reading, learning, and my other pet projects.  Having talked to older men in my life, I have found that many of them started having less interest in sex and chasing women and became more focused on their work and outside interests about the time they hit their early to mid 30s.  That’s about right for me.  I started getting really interested in writing for public consumption and became cool with the fact I didn’t have to date or get married about five years ago. In my twenties I was distraught that I wasn’t getting a lot of dates or was attractive to women.  I readily admit I am not attractive.  I look like a cross between Shrek and Tony Soprano 🙂  Never have been  handsome and never will be.  But I’m all right with it.  I’ve accepted while I’ll never get married and have kids, it’s okay.  I’m cool with it.  I’ll throw my efforts into blogging, writing, reading, researching, learning, being a good friend, being a good uncle to my niece and three nephews, being a trustworthy son to my now elderly parents, and becoming the best Skyrim and Civilization player I can possibly be.

I kind of want to be a Most Interesting Man even though I’m not classically handsome or a world traveller.  I may have not travelled the world outside of USA and Mexico, but my writings certainly have.  Earlier this month I added up how many nations I’ve had readers from and it’s around 90 different countries where I’ve had at least one reader.  My parents as health care providers can’t claim to have treated people in that many countries.  My brother the engineer can’t claim to have designed projects in that many. And that’s in only three years, two hundred blog posts, and about $100 in advertising.  Long live the internet.  If I thought I was photogenic at all I’d start a youtube site.  Maybe I could just do voice overs and feature my friends’ artwork 🙂 It’s a few ideas worth kicking around.