Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often. I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer. I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month. I call home at least twice a week. And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month. Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off. And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often. I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends. But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now. But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with. I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.
Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it. I readily admit I don’t have great social skills. I never really have. But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it. Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going. I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had. Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields. I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions. I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community. I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog. I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild. It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away. A sense of community is important for people. We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history. Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.
Decided to spend a few days at my parents’ house. Getting some much needed rest and relaxation. Haven’t gotten in the conversations as much as I would like mainly because I have been sleeping so much. Even after two days of unwinding, I can tell things are starting to improve. I’m glad that I don’t have the temper I did even five years ago with this mental illness. Maybe some people do mellow and relax with age. I believe I have.
This trip to my parents’ place made me realize how much I miss travelling and visiting people. I haven’t travelled as much as I used to primarily because of chronic back pain. But since I’ve lost some weight and just forced myself to get more active, I think I’m somewhat more mobile now than I was over the winter. I still have to take it easier than I would like, but even that is starting to go away.
I have been so used to eating alone over the last several years I almost forgot what dinner conversation could be like. Have had a few of those with my parents since I came to their house. I forgot how much even a few minutes of face to face interaction could make me feel better. I am convinced it was and is the paranoia aspect of my illness that doesn’t allow me to interact with others as much as I should. I know I would be better grounded mentally and physically if I spent more time interacting with other people in person.
Getting some other things taken care of I had been neglecting for too long. I have put things off when I was alone because I didn’t have either the motivation to get things done or the help to get things done. One thing I still have to force myself to do is ask for help. I have always had hard times asking for help, as if it made me feel inadequate and weak. But I suppose as I age I’ll have to just ask for help more often.
It’s been a relaxing couple days out of the routine. I imagine I’ll spend another couple days here at least before I try to go back and face my usual routine again. But even the strongest people need to rest and relax once in awhile.
Been going through changes the last several days. I finally broke my habit of staying up all night and then sleeping much of the day. Took a few months to break that habit. Now I’m usually up around 6 am and in bed by 10pm. And yet my routines don’t feel that different. I’ve been getting out of the apartment more and spending time outdoors. It helps that the weather has turned cooler.
Even though I leave my apartment several times a day, I still haven’t been outside of my hometown for several weeks. While I still have a little phobia about driving, I do drive more than I used to. It’s just that it’s all in town and stop and go driving. I really don’t have much choice but to overcome my fear of driving as my hometown doesn’t have good public transit. Fortunately I can everything I need within city limits. That’s one of the advantages of living in a college town that the farm village I grew up in never had. As it is, I have to buy fuel for my car only once a month anymore. Used to be I had to buy every week when I lived with my parents when I was in high school and college.
Didn’t go out for Halloween. I stayed home and watched a few supernatural thrillers and listened to the old ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast on youtube. Spent most of my nights in October watching playoff baseball. So I guess I have to find a new way to spend my evenings.
Overall I feel pretty calm and content. I still have auditory hallucinations a couple times a day, usually hearing footsteps that aren’t there or my phone ringing when no one is calling. The real odd thing is that most of my hallucinations now come shortly after I wake up and before I get out of bed. I still get enough sleep. I think the consistent sleep helps keep me stable. I still avoid rude, obnoxious, and irritable people as much as I can. That definitely helps keep me stable even if it does hurt my social life.
At this point of my life, I have come to the conclusion that small talk and casual acquaintances are overrated. Most people simply don’t have deep and connecting conversations with very many people. I would rather bond to some family members and a few close friends as opposed to have lots of meaningless casual conversations with legions of fair weather friends. I love being an introvert. Most of my friends are deep thinking introverts. Being a people person is something that does not come natural to me. On top of that, I think it’s overrated. It doesn’t bother me that I sometimes spend entire days alone without talking to anyone at all. I rather enjoy my privacy and freedom to think and explore different ideas. I really don’t enjoy socializing that much. Most times, people won’t talk about anything beyond the weather, sports, or how much they hate their job. To me, it gets boring and mind numbing really quick. I wouldn’t be much fun at a cocktail party. Even though I’m not sure I could qualify, I think it’s too bad my hometown doesn’t have a MENSA chapter or some social group similar. I really crave intelligent conversation and mental exercise. Learning new things actually gives me joy and makes me feel good physically. Unfortunately I don’t get this much when socializing with most people. I have painfully found out that many smart people have lousy social lives. I am no exception.
Got a few things done over the weekend. I renewed my lease on my apartment. I did this because my lease was going to expire in May and if I do move it won’t be until late summer at the earliest. Also got new license plates for my car. My state changes the designs every few years. And for the first time in years Nebraska has plates that aren’t sensory overload 🙂 Simple is good sometimes.
I’m still feeling quite stable mentally. I think I finally cured my problems of sleeping too much. I usually sleep only six hours a night now and nap for an hour in the afternoons. Haven’t felt any real depression or anxiety for a few weeks now. I go sometimes get lonely as I don’t have much for intelligent conversation in my apartment complex. Outside of my landlady, I don’t get much for interesting conversation. Most people in my complex seem to be content to complain about how they don’t get enough in social security or about the antics of fellow tenants. Well, it’s not my fault some of these people spend so much money on cigarettes and lottery tickets. And it’s also not my fault that some people allow themselves to worry themselves sick over things that don’t matter. It just gets old after awhile having the same conversations about the weather or who did what to whom.
I admit to isolating more than is healthy. At least more than is healthy for most people. But I never really have enjoyed socializing. Let me take that back, I enjoy socializing with certain types of people. I enjoy socializing with intellectuals, avid readers, and people with a wide range of interests. I just don’t get that very often. I have never gotten that very often, especially when growing up. I did get to socialize a great deal with interesting, intelligent, and well read people when I was in college. College was the happiest five years of my life. Unfortunately it was also a temporary environment. I have never met the range of people and intelligences I met in college since. It’s not even close.
The older I get the less chances I have to socialize. Many of my well read college friends now have careers and families, so I don’t get to see them very often. Even my friends without children I don’t get to talk to as often as I would like. Right now the big thing saving my sanity and keeping my social life alive is participating in group forums on Facebook. Sure I’ll never get to meet those people as we are spread all over the world, but I still get to have some kind of socializing with people I can relate to.
I don’t enjoy going to bars on Saturday nights. I don’t enjoy talking about sports or politics for hours on end. I never cared for people who complained about their jobs or spouses. I guess I am ultimately not someone you would want as a dinner guest. I just have little use for small talk about mundane nonsense. I imagine that makes me look like a show off to most normal people. But I’m really not showing off that much of what I know and can remember. I actually have to dumb down around most people. And I can’t stand it. That’s why I love the internet so much. I can much, much easier meet with people with similar interests than I could ever have imagined twenty years ago. The internet is a social God send for me. I don’t think I’d be as stable without the interactions I get from others through it.
I visited with my nephews and niece a few days ago. I got to see my parents too for the first time since Christmas. I had a good time with the kids. They are ages 12, 10, 8, and 5. They are old enough they don’t get into a lot of trouble and can be quite entertaining. Seeing those kids grow up and develop interests and personalities of their own is bittersweet. I am happy that my brother and his wife were able to have several kids, are able to take care of them, and raise them to be respectable and well behaved kids. But it does make me realize some of what I have lost and will never be able to experience on my own because of my schizophrenia.
I have written a lot in the past about alternating between being sad, angry, and depressed about the career and life opportunities I lost in the name of mental illness. I have written much less about being sad and depressed about never being able to marry or have kids. Outside of my best female friend, I really have little experience with dating. I was turned down every time I ever asked a girl out on a date in high school and most of the time when I was in college. By the time I was halfway through college I gave up on the idea of ever marrying because it just seemed like a lost cause and wasted effort. I never could figure out why I did so poorly with women. But I haven’t really cared for years as I know that ship set sail a real long time ago and that I just as well make the best of being single and lonely for life.
For many years I was making the best of it. After seeing some of my classmates go through rough divorces or slog through unhappy marriages, I was grateful I never did marry. But after seeing my brother’s kids mature through the years and come into their own, I am beginning to realize that if children are raised well, they can be the greatest things that ever happened to you.
It wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized just how lonely I am most of the time. I really don’t talk to that many people in person any more. I almost never socialize outside of close family and friends. I still sleep ten to twelve hours a day. I think that is a subconscious way of dealing with the loneliness. I really am lonely most of the time. Have been for the last couple years since three of my older friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other.
As much as I hated the office politics of a job, at least I was able to find a few moments of joyful interactions everyday with other people. As much as I didn’t like the social aspects of high school, I still had my friends and some friendly acquaintances. I don’t have any of that anymore. I can understand how some people, men especially, lose a lot of joy in their lives and much of their identity when they retire or get laid off from a job. I would consider going back to work except that mentally I’m too unstable and too discouraged to work a traditional job. Besides much of what I could do in a traditional job will probably get automated within the next several years anyway. Perhaps that is why I devote so much time to this blog. It gives me identity and it could be my legacy since I’ll never be able to get married or have kids. Things have often been lonely and discouraging the last couple years. Being mentally ill is a death sentence to anyone’s social life.
I must be the only man in America who won’t be watching the Presidential Debates tonight. I’ve had my fill of politics months ago. I am so tired and frustrated how hateful and divided politics has become. I can’t even talk about politics with close friends and family any more without feeling frustration. But politics and sports are all many people I know want to talk about anymore. There is a lot more going on in the real world than politics and sports. But it’s the abnormal that gets the most attention. Few people can throw a football 80 yards or charm thousands of people in a speech.
I readily admit I do not understand neurotypical thinking. I have spent years trying to figure the average people out and have even point blank asked people why they think the way that they do. Alas, I haven’t gotten any concrete answers or come to any real conclusions. I definitely believe the Tommy Lee Jones line from ‘Men In Black’ when he said, “The individual is smart but people are dumb and panicky animals.” I see this everyday. I do much better dealing with only one or two people at a time rather than trying to deal with crowds. I don’t understand why for the last year and a half about all I see on my newsfeed and friends’ Facebook comments have to do with politics. Some pretty cool stuff has happened in other fields just in that time, namely in science and technology. But no one likes to discuss any of that. About the only people I can discuss science with are my parents who had extensive science backgrounds because of working in the medical fields. Even then I am convinced they don’t like discussing science that much and do it just to humor me.
I have always been interested in science and technology. I pursued a career in medical research until it became painfully obvious that my mental illness wouldn’t allow me to continue this path. It helped that I had some good science teachers in school that were willing to put up with my endless questions. But after spending over a dozen years in the adult world, I painfully realized that most people didn’t have that luxury. Most people do not see the beauty and wonder of science and the natural world. I think that if people like this were to take a few evenings to watch some presentations by the late Carl Sagan and Michio Kaku on youtube instead of whatever sports ball game or political news is trending this week, we’d have a much more informed and enthusiastic populace. We’d also have more interesting people too. And isn’t being interesting a worthy goal?
Since the fall of communism and the rise of information tech in the early 1990s, we have lived in some really interesting times. It seems hardly a week goes by anymore that some breakthrough is happening. Sadly, most people I associate with on a daily basis are blind to these wonders. And it seems that the few that are paying attention are worried about some dystopian future. Personally I am very angry with Hollywood and popular culture for selling people these horrible visions of the future. Visions like that are intellectually lazy and probably dishonest. And it’s not like there isn’t a market for good science fiction that shows a possibly cool future. Star Trek has been around for fifty years and is going as strong as ever. People are worried about machines that have no empathy or compassion? Please, most people I know lack empathy and compassion and our world still works.
I guess in my ranting frustration I have to take heart in the fact that the entire world doesn’t have to be inventors or scientists or artists or humanitarians. The politicians, freaks, cranks, and creeps may get the lion’s share of the attention from the media. But it’s the scientists, engineers, health care workers, artists, humanitarians, and incurable dreamers that make living better and more meaningful. I end this article with a few thoughts from the late Buckminster Fuller about how it often doesn’t take a great multitude or following the crowd to make a positive difference.