Physical Pain and Aging with Mental Illness

Knee pains have finally passed.  Felt good enough to go out and buy groceries this morning.  So I’m set for another couple weeks.  I was getting tired of having to eat out and do drive thru because of my bad knee.  I can tell that when I eat fast food regularly my physical and mental health suffer some.  Also started taking some multi vitamin pills a few days ago.  That seems to help with some lingering pain.  Makes me feel a little more energetic.

I’m back to where I’m not sleeping as much as I did over the winter and spring.  Maybe it’s the longer daylight hours.  Maybe losing a few pounds has helped with my sleep patterns.  I still can’t walk as far as I could even two years ago.  But I think if I keep doing the two high protein meals a day, avoid sugar as much as possible, and keep drinking lots of water I can get back into better health.

Since I’m not experiencing knee pains anymore, my mood has improved.  I’m not as depressed as I once was.  I’m getting out of my apartment more.  I’m breaking up some of my in home routines.  I’m trying out some new computer games I bought a few months ago I only dabbled in.  I guess I finally got burned out on Civilization, Sim City, and Skyrim.  I still read a lot, granted mostly online articles, blogs, and science journals.  I trying to get back into more contact with old friends.  And I want to bring some old friends back into the fold I lost contact with over the last few years.

Next week is my birthday.  I’ll be 37 years old.  Mentally I’m more sharp than ever and the mental illness doesn’t have the ups and downs it used to.  Physically I don’t have the endurance I did even a few years ago.  I get unexplainable aches and pains more often.  I wake up more in the middle of the night.  I’m even more cold sensitive then I used to be.  Being a fat man, I could easily go through much of a fall or even winter with just a light jacket unless it was blizzard conditions.  Finding that I can’t do that as well anymore.  I have found that I am sometimes more set in my ways than I would like.  I tend to shop in the same stores, eat in the same four or five restaurants, eat the same things all the time, watch similar types of shows on youtube and netflix, etc.  At least I haven’t yet gotten to where I’m complaining about the kids all the time.  I remember what it was like being ragged on by my elders all the time when I was growing up.  I hated it then and I still hate it when people in my age bracket rag on their kids.  I just hope that as I age and my physical health starts to decline even more that I don’t become one of these bitter and angry old men I see too much of.  I hope I can be an encouragement to people to all ages. I just want my little corner of the world to be a better place because I was alive.

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Settling Into Changes and New Routines

Been making some changes in my routines since Christmas.  I am getting more physical activity, been eating less meat and more vegetables and rice.  I have eaten in restaurants only twice since New Year’s Day.  I have changed up my diet quite a bit.  I no longer cook a lot of grilled and baked chicken and beef.  Instead I pretty much eat mostly rice, vegetables, potatoes, and soup.  I still don’t eat much bread.  I get most of my carbs anymore through rice and potatoes.  Neither potatoes nor rice make me feel as lethargic or bloated as large amounts of bread.  Now I absolutely love sub sandwiches, but if I have more than one every couple days I’ll be feeling slow and sluggish.

I have been cleaning my apartment more often.  I had been kind of lazy about this for a few months.  But since I’m feeling much better and more stable I have found it easier to keep my place cleaner.  My place may not make Good Housekeeping, but it’s still better than most college dorm rooms.

I am getting more social activity via Facebook.  I had been kind of a ghost on social media besides promoting the blog for months because I didn’t want to be part of political discussions.  While it feels good to be back in contact with extending family and college friends, it is unnerving that friendships can be strained by things as petty as political opinions. But I am glad I don’t have to hear about it for another few years.

Haven’t dealt with hallucinations for weeks.  Haven’t had problems with delusions for awhile.  Haven’t had issues with depression for almost two months.  I am getting consistent sleep even though I tend to sleep in until late morning most days.  My medications don’t make me sleepy and I think I am more effected by caffeine than I was a few years ago.  Finding out the hard way that I just can’t drink as much caffeine as much as I used to.  That is another new reality I have to learn to adapt to.

I’m still not venturing out of the complex as much.  But it has been quite cold the last few weeks.  But I am definitely saving money on gas by not driving as much.  I drive only half of what I used to, so I buy gas only once a month anymore.  I don’t mind as gas prices are going back up and I can do so much online anymore.  I admit I spend a lot of time online anymore, far more than I did even five years ago.

Been reading much more lately.  I still like reading about science and technology advances.  I am finding that as fast as the advances are coming anymore, the science books I have are starting to become out of date even if they are only a few years old.  I am finding out that Bill Gates was right when he said that people overestimate tech advances short term but underestimate them long term.  Books I bought that were written even four years ago underestimated some of the advances we are seeing now.  So to meet my desire for science and tech news I have to read more online periodicals and science blogs.  I always liked science and wanted to make it my career since grade school.  I have gotten to where I like reading science sites more than I do watching sports.  I know I’m weird.

These are just a few of my new routines now that it’s winter and I’m feeling stability for the first time in months.  I’m just enjoying it right now and I’m going to ride this hot streak for all it’s worth.

Adapting To The Holidays

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Alaska. The Aurora Borealis lights up the northern sky with a log cabin in winter. PR

The weather is turning colder and the days are really short now.  As a result I haven’t been leaving my apartment complex much the last several days.  And I don’t feel guilty at all about it.  I never did well around the crowds of shoppers during the holidays.  I just don’t like fighting crowds and waiting in long lines just so I can buy a few items.  I think one of these days I’m going to do most of my shopping online and see if I can just get things delivered to my door.

As a result of my quasi hibernation for the last week and a half, I am spending more time reading.  I have plenty of books I bought months ago that I’m only now getting into.  I have found that I am eating much less too.  Most days anymore I eat two meals a day and that’s really about it.  I also rarely drink coffee and I used to have a solid four to six cup a day habit.  When I do drink soda pop it’s mostly diet anymore and only with meals.  I find that in spite the longer nights I’m staying up later and waking up later.  I usually experience only a few hours of sunlight a day.  It doesn’t really bother me.  I really don’t like getting out and fighting traffic and crowds during Christmas.

Christmas really doesn’t mean that much to me as I don’t have kids.  I rarely go to Christmas programs and I haven’t decorated for years.  I just usually go spend a couple days at my parents’ place and that’s about it anymore.  My brother and his kids have  their own traditions so they rarely come to Nebraska for the holiday.  But Christmas really hasn’t meant much to me other than a few days of vacation and weeks of faux cheery music, too many lights, and too many bells.  Now I do like a few Christmas movies like ‘A Christmas Story’ and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’  I can’t imagine how tough Christmas is for autistic children who have problems with sensory overload problems.  It’s tough for me as an adult with schizophrenia who can voluntarily withdraw when needed.

I really don’t send out Christmas cards as I keep in regular contact with most of my old friends via Facebook.  I won’t go to the complex Christmas party again this year.  Seems like most people have been in a more foul mood than usual this year.  And I just don’t want to experience that during the holidays.  Sure it’s tough essentially spending the holidays in self imposed exile because of sensory overload and fear of crowds.  But I just don’t see any other options.  2016 has been a more rough than usual year and I’m sure the holidays this year will be worse than normal.  I’m just ready for things to go back to some sense of normal.  I haven’t experienced normal and prolonged periods of calm for a long time.

Minimalism, Optimism, and Freedom with Mental Illness

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In the classic movie ‘Forrest Gump’, there was a line that went like “there’s only so much you need and the rest is just for show.”  After a couple of years of practicing minimalism I know that is a fact.  There really is only so much a person needs to really be content in life. I don’t have any music CDs or DVDs because I have all of that held by my computer via my subscriptions to Netflix, Curiosity Stream, and Spotify.  I have my books but I am seriously considering buying a Kindle or another cheap e-reader and putting a bunch of free books on it.  I don’t have a lot of trinkets in my house.  Besides a few art pieces done by friends and my framed World Series ticket stub from when my Rockies made the World Series I don’t have much for decorations.  The only real extravagance  I have for decorations is the world map where I put in push pins in every country I had a visitor from.  I have food in my fridge and pantry.  I have some emergency supplies so I could ride out a blizzard or emergency for a few days without power if need be.  I have my car which I use mainly to buy groceries and run occasional errands.  I’ve gotten to where I usually buy gas only once a month unless I’m making road trips during the summer.  I banked some of my insurance settlement money as another emergency fund.  I already had an emergency fund that I keep outside of the bank.  My medicaid covers my medications and psych doctor visits.  I have learned how to live on what social security pays me.  I have zero for debts.  I have two computers and central heating.  Heck, I dare say that even though I’m on social security disability insurance and officially living under the poverty line for U.S. standards in 2016, I live better than the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts did back in the late 1800s.  Thank God for technology and knowledge.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m bragging.  But I am happy that I have gotten out of debt, stayed out of debt, didn’t end up in a bad relationship or divorced paying child support for kids I’m hardly ever allowed to see, and avoided a lot of other problems that could have come with being mentally ill.  I’m glad I don’t have kids because I fear passing on genetic tendencies for mental illness and I know with schizophrenia I would have made a lousy father.  I am glad I got out of debt and learned how to have cheap tastes because I don’t have to take a job just for the money.  I don’t work right now because I really don’t need the money.  I also don’t need the headaches of office politics and putting up with whiny and lazy coworkers.  I left my last job because I didn’t need the money and the job was becoming more of a headache than it was worth.  Being in the position where I don’t have to accept a lousy job or put up with coworkers’ nonsense is a sense of power that not many people I know have.

Some of my critics will no doubt say that I can do this only because I am on the government dole.  Years ago with mental illness, I’d be locked up in an insane asylum and probably costing the taxpayers more than I am now with less effective results. With me living in the community on disability, my community was able to get several years of labor and taxes out of me that they wouldn’t have gotten fifty years ago.  The community also received my blog entries, which from messages I have gotten from readers, are making a difference.  Some may think I am spoiled by being able to live in the community and take psych medications at tax payer expense.  What’s wrong with that?  Everybody alive today benefits from inventions and innovations they had nothing to do with.  Everybody with electricity today had little to nothing to do with the research that people like Michael Farraday, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and George Westinghouse did back in the 1800s to make electric power possible.  A significant percentage of the people living today would be dead or never born if it wasn’t for anti biotic drugs.  Surely that doesn’t spoil anyone or make them less productive.

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Because of advances in science and technology along with advances in the social safety nets, I can live pretty well off very little.  I have access to much of history’s music through Spotify for only ten dollars a month.  I have access to the world’s cumulative knowledge and wisdom won through centuries of toil, tears, and blood through a wireless internet collection that costs only one dollar a day.  I don’t need in encyclopedia for research when I have wikipedia and search engines.  I don’t need to write letters to friends when I can just hit them up on Facebook.  I don’t need to buy a newspaper when I can go online to get my news or craigslist.com for classified ads.  I can reach an international audience with this blog for pennies a day in advertising and I have a much further reach than when I started writing a dozen years ago.  Back then I wasn’t known outside of the few people who bought some of my print on demand poetry and essays books.  Much of what I am doing right now would seem like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers type of science fiction magic to my grandparents generation back in the 1950s.  Even the Wal Mart special smart phone I have is more advanced than Captain Kirk’s mobile communicator from the original ‘Star Trek.’  And I have access to all of this and more even though I am a minimalist, on disability insurance, a single man, and living in a smaller town in a largely rural farming state.

Because my hobbies and entertainments don’t cost much I don’t need that much money.  Splurging for me is going to a sports bar with a couple college friends when they come to visit.  Or buying $60 worth of used books on amazon or picking up a couple cheap computer games.  Extravagance for me is going camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota or the mountains of Colorado.  A good time for me is getting to see my nephews and niece. I may not have a large income, a big house, a fancy car, a designer wardrobe, or prestige.  But I have come to realize over the years with a mental illness I don’t need these things to be content and happy.  I need only a fraction of the things I was told I needed to have a decent life when I was growing up.  I really don’t have to make any more major purchases for the foreseeable future.  Other than the ups and downs of my mental illness I am living quite well.  Now that the insanity of the election has passed I may not have to worry about so many ups and downs anymore.  Life is going well for me.

 

On Minimalism or Why I’m Not Pessimist Even Though I Don’t Have Money or Job Security

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I have never learned the fine art of being able to let go and no longer care.  Maybe that is another trait neurotypical people are born with that we the mentally ill aren’t. Even though one of my favorite comedians was George Carlin, I have never been able to bring myself to the nihilist thinking of if the world is going to fall apart then I’m going to enjoy the ride down.  I think I’m more of an idealist in that I know we as a species have problems, issues, and baggage but we can compensate for said hangups and move onto something better.  I guess I never quit dreaming and seeing what we can as a species accomplish.  I missed the memo that said I had to be a pessimist and a grump once I became a man.

The scientists, engineers, doctors, and humanitarians of the world have done some really amazing things just since I was old enough to start paying attention twenty five years ago.  And twenty five years is just a blip on the radar of human history.  I would have been life time hospitalized in 1966.  I wouldn’t be blogging in 1986 with the audience I now have (I appreciate all my visitors).  I wouldn’t be able to keep in contact with my college friends in 1996 nearly as easily as I do now.  My father always told me one of his greatest regrets was not keeping in contact with his college and Air Force friends more and taking more photos when he was in school and overseas.  With Facebook I hear from people I was just casual friends with on an almost weekly basis.  I have even had good conversations with people I have never met in person.  But because we have similar interests we can connect quite easily.  With my cell phone I can cheaply talk to friends and family at all hours or call for emergency help.  In the late 1980s about the only people who had cell phones were Wall Street tycoons.  And as good as my $99 Wal Mart cell phone is, I don’t even really need it as much as I used to.  Anymore I can most of my banking, order books through Amazon, order clothing (I have an odd size so I have to special order sometimes), and even get pizza and deli delivery via the internet.  If I were so inclined to get back into the dating game, I’d just go to any one of a number of internet dating sites and let their algorithms match me to a woman with similar interests.  None of this was possible when I was growing up.  It is an excellent time to be alive.

For years I have heard that my generation of Americans was going to be the first that was worse off than their parents.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re worse off only in certain areas.  Sure GenXers and Millenials have higher levels of student loans and more job insecurity than did the Boomers and World War 2 generations.  But what money we do have can go much further than in the past.  You really think Andy Griffith could have accessed an entire encyclopedia of knowledge on his rotary phone in the 1960s?  You think that Archie Bunker would have as good of a chance to survive cancer in the 1970s?  Sure many of the high paying manufacturing jobs have left Europe and North America, but blame technology and automation as much as China or trade deals.  Just Google the monetary worth of manufactured goods in the U.S. or E.U. and compare it to before the beginning of automation.  It’s probably higher now though done with fewer laborers.  Yes you may be discontent with your job as a convince store clerk or a fryer cook at KFC, but with as cheap as many things are getting now, you may not need the $40,000 a year job right out of college to have an alright life.

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I make less than $15,000  per year from all sources.  But I still have two computers, an automobile, a cell phone, a good wireless internet connection, no debts, and I’m not going hungry.  Yet according to the U.S. government statistics I am living in poverty.  But I have pretty much everything I want and definitely everything I need.  I don’t need the four bedroom house with the picket fence (especially not when I have pay home owners’ association fees, property taxes, shovel snow, and fix my own plumbing when the pipes break at 3 am on Sunday morning).  I think the ideas of having a large house in a good neighborhood, a mini van and an SUV, lots of trinkets to impress people I don’t care about, a stressful job that could be automated or outsourced at a moment’s notice, a marriage that is always strained because of not enough time with the wife and kids, are overrated.  I never got the memo that said I had to have all of that to be happy and content.  I don’t have any of those “hallmarks of success” and yet I don’t feel like less of a man because of it.  Some people may think less of me because I don’t have a lot of money, a prestigious job, a trophy wife, children, a big house, or a SUV.  But that is their hangup and a reflection on them, not me.

Sure I make less money than my parents did (and many of my friends can claim the same thing).  But we definitely have more flexibility, more adaptability, more connectivity, better access to knowledge and information, and less of our budgets are going to basics like food and rent.  Even with as little as I make only half of my money goes to food and rent.  And I don’t even get food stamps.  Take heart GenXers and Millenials, even though you may never have the job stability or the money your parents and grandparents had, you definitely have more freedom and flexibility because you are not as tied to one area.  And you GenXers and Millenials will find out that once you get your debts completely knocked out (which will take time and discipline), you will find you can live on much less than you thought and you suddenly have lots of options.  My parents are tied to their small farming village because they would have to sell their house, their acreage, their cars, and most of the trinkets they acquired over the years of being tied down.  Me, besides my bed, my dresser, my book shelf, and my two couches, I can throw everything I own in my car and be moved within a few hours if need be.  And being able to do so much more online now, I can easily transfer to a new bank, new insurance company, and find pretty much whatever I need wherever I wind up.  I wouldn’t give up my freedom and flexability so I could be tied down just because I have a house and some money.  Freedom and flexability are currency in the information age.  I wouldn’t want to live in the past.  I would go nuts from the lack of freedom and lack of options.

 

No News Is Often Good News With A Mental Illness

Things have been quiet for me in regards to my schizophrenia for the last several weeks.  Spring and early summer have traditionally been the best times of year for me.  This year is no exception.  Still exercising six days a week on average.  I’m still getting out of the apartment and going to the parks or the mall to people watch and be out and about more days than not.  Haven’t had any real problems with depression, anxiety, or agitation for at least a couple months.  Haven’t really been anywhere besides visiting family for several months.  It’s been a stable and drama free go for a long time.

I can attribute this stretch of no news to a few things.  For one, I’ve learned over fifteen years with a diagnosis what causes problems and how to avoid them.  I traditionally haven’t done well in large crowds and fast paced environments.  So I usually do most of my shopping errands in the early morning or late night to avoid crowds.  I typically avoid driving during high traffic times.  I couldn’t get away with this living in a large metroplex.  But there are some advantages to living in smaller towns for those with mental illness, less stress and slower pace being among those.

While I don’t tell complete strangers I have a mental illness, I have found there is less stigma and less uneasiness when I do discuss it with others then there was fifteen years ago.  When I was in college I never told anyone outside of a few close friends I had a mental illness.  But seems that people are not as ill at ease as they once were.  As stress and anxiety become bigger issues afflicting more people, the stigmas of mental illness will break down even faster.

I’ve never been one that thrived on drama and instability in my personal or work life.  It’s been pretty uneventful with my mental illness for quite some time.  And I’m liking it just fine.  No news is often good news, especially with a mental illness.