Arm Chair Philosophy During Thanksgiving

Spending Thanksgiving week by myself.  I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents.  I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone.  I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college.  I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.

This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone.  Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on.  I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school.  It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after.  I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment.  Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state.  But I have a few weeks to figure that out.  It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere.  This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.

Starting to sleep less again.  But I’m not staying up all night either.  I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am.  I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours.  I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am.  I have been feeling quite stable lately too.  I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown.  First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.

In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much.  I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time.  Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone.  I don’t like socializing in person much anymore.  I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness.  I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.

Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest.  I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both.  I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting.  I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished.  I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver.  It’s like I expect things to not work anymore.  I’m probably suffering from apathy too.  I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore.  I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.

I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work.  I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names.  I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore.  I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before.  But nothing changes for the better.  The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts.  Yet no one wants to talk about these.  But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion.  I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.

For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren.  Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did.  I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum?  There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.

I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore.  Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else.  They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses.  But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife.  Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries.  Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later.  Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.

Things Life Is Too Short For

Going off subject for this post.  I am a self admitted recovering workaholic.  As a teenager it wasn’t uncommon for me to show up at school shortly after 7am to either work on school projects or do the off season strength training program our school encouraged it’s athletes to do.  Some nights it would be after 7pm once I got home during football season.  It was even later during speech season, which was always a winter activity.  During the winter I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark.  This would have been good training for the rat race that passes for the modern workplace had I not become mentally ill and found out through very painful experience that I couldn’t support myself through “traditional” employment.  It was tough accepting that I needed outside assistance and couldn’t afford my treatment on my own.  It was especially tough as I was raised to value the working life and being a productive member of society.  My pride took a major beating once I had to go on disability because even minimum wage work caused me such anxiety and panic problems I would vomit almost everyday before I went to work.

But back to my main point, I bring up all of this to come to the point that there are many things we do in life that simply makes no sense considering how short and finite a human life truly is the grand scheme of civilization, let alone the cosmos.  The fact that I was on the fast track to working myself into a potential early grave even as a fifteen year old high school freshman from middle of nowhere Nebraska before that express train got derailed by schizophrenia.  I know now at age 38 I would have worked myself into a mid life crisis had I not gotten sick just by my obsessive nature and by the way I was encouraged into doing more than expected by my elders and peers.  I see many of my classmates and peers now in their mid to late 30s working jobs they don’t like to pay for trinkets and houses they never truly wanted to impress people they don’t even like.  I’ve also seen several of my classmates and friends go through divorces, bankruptcies, and other problems.  A month ago I had a cousin who was only about ten years my senior die from brain cancer.  A friend’s mom died from cancer a little over a year ago and she was only in her fifties.  My own mother might be dead if it weren’t for her pacemaker.  Sheesh, I  myself would probably be dead or in prison if it weren’t for my psych medications and counseling.  The fact is, life is more chance and even dumb luck than we care to acknowledge.  I, like many of my fellow Americans, too often like to think we are more in control of our own destinies than we truly are.  For every Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs who makes it big starting their own businesses, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of self employed business people like my dad and grandfathers who run small businesses for over thirty years and are never known beyond their friends, families, communities, and customers.  In short, life is too short to be obsessing over work and chasing the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Even John D. Rockefeller said those who work just to achieve riches will never achieve riches.  Besides life being too short to just work yourself mad, I’m presenting a list of other things life is too precious and short to waste on.  So here goes:

Life Is Too Short and Too Precious to Waste On

 

Jealousy

Keeping Up With The Neighbors

Running Up Debts to Buy Trinkets and Junk

Petty Vendettas

Arguing Over Opinions

Putting Up With Abusive Significant Others

Putting Up With People Who Play Mind Games

Watching Cable News Every Night

Bing Watching Shows on Netflix on Sunny Days

Not Returning Your Mother’s Phone Calls

Not Spending Time With Old Friends

Worrying About Things That You Individually Can’t Do Anything About

Worrying About How You Look to Others

Worrying More About Your Image than Your Character

Skipping Your Kid’s Little League Games to Work Overtime

Arguing With Your Significant Other Over House Chores And Past Wrongs

Working Too Much (I think when I’m on my death bed I might say something like, “Dang, wish I had an actual career” just to lighten the somber mood)

Not Saving Your Old Love Letters or Birthday Cards

Not Throwing Away Your Old Bank Statements or Tax Returns

Not Laugh

To Try To Save The World By Yourself

Putting Up With Reckless People

Arguing With Rude People

Arguing With Stupid People

Worry In General

Internet Trolls

Bad Drivers

Alienating Friends And Family Over Political and Religious Differences

Kissing Up To Bad Bosses

Complaining About Coworkers

Staying At Poor Fitting Jobs

Staying In Ill Fitting Relationships

Worrying About Being Alone (it’s far better to be living alone than married to or even dating someone who makes you feel miserable)

 

I could go on for hours with this list.  But some of the things I don’t think people should waste their time on I’m sure many readers would disagree with me and would probably even anger friends and family.  I do self censor at times, simply because discretion is in too short supply among many writers and content creators online.  Just because I have the freedom to write something or another doesn’t mean I should or will.  Just because something is permissible doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.

Social Life and Depression

Getting out of the apartment several times a day now.  Have been for the last several days.  Catching up on the news of what’s been going on around the complex and meeting some of the new residents who moved in during the summer.  Seems like we have a few really cool people move in lately, and some of them are even in my age bracket and younger.  So I might be rebuilding some of my social safety nets that had fallen apart over the last few years.

I haven’t been as social over the last three years as I had been previously.  I think some of it started when three of my friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other.  Then we had a few problem residents come in that gave problems to everyone.  So I started isolating to avoid the drama.  Then my grandmother died, which I think I took harder subconsciously than I realized at the time.  My car accident in late 2015 left me scared to drive and not able to trust other drivers on the road for a long time.  2016 is a lost year as far as I’m concerned.  The drama and emotions from the elections caused me so much grief and anxiety.  I also lost some good friends and lost contact with some extended family because of those emotions running hot.

After months of hot emotions and people going insane over the pettiest things, 2017 was another tough year.  I spent most of that year alone.  I rarely visited friends or family.  I went entire days without leaving my apartment.  I more or less lost my ability to see anything decent in other humans, especially people in my immediate life.  I devoted most of 2017 to my writing and self directed scholarly endeavors.  Seeing some of the advances that were rapidly being developed was one of the few things that gave me hope in those dark years.  Like a fool I tried to share this information with people, but almost no one took me seriously.  I had some jerks tell me I was “fake news” and a liar.  “Fake news” is another stupid phrase I despise.  After a few episodes of this, I became real despondent.  I lost myself in computer games and youtube videos and just became annoyed and irritated with people in general.  The less I had to deal with flesh and bone people, the better as far as I was concerned.

But after almost three years of depression imposed exile and hermitage, I am slowly becoming more social.  I actually want to socialize now.  I truly believe that the type of people one surrounds themselves with can effect your mental and even physical health.  I have believed this for years.  But since most people I knew and ran into on a daily basis were in foul and angry moods, it just seemed better to just isolate, stay out of sight, and hope to God that people eventually came back to their senses.  I’m thinking that people, at least the ones I associate with, are starting to come back to their senses.  I certainly hope so.  The last three years were lonely years.  The only years I would rather relive less is my late teens and early twenties before I was being treated for mental illness.

Death of Family Members While Being Mentally Ill and Thoughts on My Own Mortality

Besides my family and one college friend, I haven’t kept in strong contact with most of my friends the last couple weeks.  My best friend’s mother died a few weeks ago and I haven’t talked to her much.  I decided to let her do what was needed and not bother her much.  She probably wasn’t much in the mood for talking the last few weeks.  I haven’t had a parent die yet.  All of my grandparents and a couple uncles have died.  But I wasn’t really torn up by their deaths as I was just happy that such people had lived.  At my grandparents’ funerals, the immediate family was mostly spending the time retelling stories of the cool and funny things they did during their lives.  We weren’t crying that much but instead were celebrating their lives.  There was almost as much laughter as crying at my grandfather’s funeral as the immediate family were retelling stories of my grandfather’s jokes and funny things he did during his life.  And my last grandmother to pass away was quite sharp and aware until she had a stroke about two weeks before she died.  But she was in her late nineties and had real bad arthritis to where she could barely walk.  She had said for the last few years of her life that she wasn’t afraid of dying and that she was ready at any time.  I think that maybe she was sad seeing most of her friends and family die over the years.  Fortunately I was able to handle the grandparents’ funerals without any flare ups of my mental illness.  I was a pall bearer for both my grandmothers.

I guess that as I have now crossed into my late thirties, I’m beginning to think about my own mortality a little.  This has been especially true the last few months as I’m getting more unexplainable aches and pains and I can’t lift as heavy as items as I could previously.  It also doesn’t help that schizophrenics, statistically speaking, have shorter life spans than mentally healthy people.  If I were to die prematurely, I think I want to donate my body to science.  I figure that something good should come from my having schizophrenia effect my mind and destroy my career.

I’m sorry for sounding morbid with this entry.  But I have been thinking about how several people who have influenced me in my young years are now dying off.  Even my own parents aren’t in the greatest health.  But I guess they are in their late sixties.  I’m thirty seven and that would have made me an elderly person in the Stone Age. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter how long you live as long as you make the most of the days you have.

 

Changes

Been going through a few changes the last couple weeks.  I have finally gotten over the need for 10 to 12 hours a sleep every night.  I now usually get 6 to 8 hours anymore.  This has been going on for a little over a week.  I’m still getting used to the new found extra time.  I was so used to being rushed during the winter as I had only a few hours window of when I could run errands and schedule doctor appointments.  So I think my sleep issues are cured.  And I didn’t even have to take sleep pills for it.  About the only thing I can think of I’m doing different is limiting my caffeine.  When I do have caffeine it’s usually soda pop and only once or twice a day.  I haven’t drank coffee in weeks.  I’ve noticed I’m less jittery too since I reduced the caffeine.

I’m getting more active.  I try to leave the apartment a few times a day just to get out and about.  I’ll get out even for something as simple as going through the drive thru at McDonald’s for a couple cheeseburgers.  I usually keep my windows open until noon.  Since it’s almost summer now, it gets too hot to leave the windows open all day.  We’ve had a nice and long enough spring I was used to leaving windows open most days.  Started lifting arm weights a few days ago.  Too soon to tell any real difference.  Started taking multi vitamins again.  I’ve noticed my aches and pains are not as pronounced now.  I knew vitamin deficiency could lead to problems.  I probably wasn’t getting enough as I tend to eat low carb and high protein diets.

But, not all the changes I’ve experienced have been positive.  Found out my best friend’s mother is on hospice for cancer and isn’t expected to live much longer.  Sad deal.  So we’ve been chatting back and forth via Facebook quite a lot the last few weeks.  She’s understandably sad and shaken by the whole deal.  I wish I could do more for her.  But she lives out of state and there’s only so much I can do over the internet.

As the seasons are changing, so are many aspects of my life.  Besides my best friend soon to be losing her mother, most of these changes are welcomed.  I wish my best friend nothing but the best as she works through the grief of losing her mom.

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.

 

Dealing With A Death In The Family While Having Mental Illness

On Tuesday, August 4th my paternal grandmother died in her sleep a few days after having a major stroke.  She was 97 years old.  Grandma Foster was one of these people who was always looking out for other people almost like they were her own kids.  I can imagine as the oldest of eight siblings growing up on a farm in Nebraska during the Great Depression she would have developed those skills of caring for others and making that a huge part of her life at an early age.

Every summer my brother and I would spend a few days with her in her hometown.  After my Grandpa Foster died of a heart attack at their farmstead in the early 1980s she moved into town.  While I can’t remember the farmstead she, grandpa, and my dad lived on, she and my dad both used to tell us stories about life on their farm.  Grandma was one of these farmers’ wives who could do a little bit of everything.  She said she could have taken a chicken from the henhouse and cooked on the dining room table in about an hour.  She also did quite a bit of the same farm work my grandpa was doing during the first few years of their marriage right alongside him out in the field.  This was back in the late 1930s when  the corn crops where still being harvested by hand well into the winter.

During World War II, after my grandfather couldn’t qualify for the army as in enlisted soldier because of his age, grandma and grandpa went to Wichita, Kansas to work in an aircraft factory.  They both worked in that factory for the duration of the war.  A few years after the war ended the family moved back to Nebraska.  My grandpa farmed for the rest of his life.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that grandpa and grandma never owned their own land and instead farmed for others.  In addition to being a farm wife and a worker in a aircraft factory, Grandma Foster worked for a number of years as a payroll clerk in an automotive parts plant.  In the 1960s and 1970s she was filling out those payrolls by hand, doing several hundred of those every two weeks.  She didn’t have much time to enjoy retirement before grandpa had his heart attack but she did enjoy having her grandkids and the kids of her extended family around as much as possible.

Even though I have been fighting a mental illness for my entire adult life I’m not as distraught by her death as I thought I would be.  That might be changing soon as my dad, my brother, and I will be spending the weekend cleaning out her apartment.  I’m also going to be one of the pall bearers.  I was a pall bearer at my maternal grandmother’s funeral too.  But as I have been working with a mental illness for quite some time I know myself well enough that often anticipating some bad event will not only lead me into a downward spiral, the anticipation will be worse than the event itself.

So as of right now I’m not thinking about cleaning out the apartment or the funeral or being a pall bearer or the visitation the night before the funeral.  It helps that we had a small birthday bash for her a couple of months ago and she was as mentally sharp as ever then.  She had been hampered by arthritis for the last several years that made walking without a walker or a cane very tough.  As much of an extrovert as my grandmother was this had to be tough.  But she managed to stay in contact with her many friends and family members through Facebook and phone calls.  She was one of these who wasn’t afraid to use new technologies while not losing the old style compassion and empathy for others.  Grandma used her Facebook account to show her caring and to keep others aware of what went on in their social circles.  A couple years ago she said that she went from being in awe of the Ford Model T to looking at flying drones just in her lifetime.  Who knows what my nephews and niece will see in theirs.

At this moment I’m not completely torn up that this compassionate sweet lady has died and is leaving a void that will have to be filled by others.  In time that void will be filled by others in our family and among her friends as it is natural for others to step into rolls that others filled after a death.  Rather than being distraught about her death, I’m grateful that she and those like her lived and impacted as many people as they did.