Beginning of School Year and Maintaining Stability

It’s been fairly quiet in my complex the last few days.  The highlights of my week were when my cleaning person arrived for the weekly cleaning and the exterminator arrived to do his routine spraying.  Got groceries too so I’m set for the rest of the month.  I have been avoiding going out the last few days as school is starting back up again.  My town is a college town, so the streets are crowded again with several thousand college kids.  Even though I haven’t been a college student since 2005, I always enjoy when they come back.  I do regret that I don’t get out to the college as much as I used to for sporting events or activities.  I enjoyed going to the ‘taste of the world’ festival the college had every spring when the foreign students would make dishes from their home nations and some would even wear traditional clothing from their home nations too.  Even the American kids got in on this, with one group wearing get ups from the 1950s and serving hamburgers and fries.

Overall I’m doing well.  Still in a traditionally tough time of year for myself.  I sometimes have minor flare ups of anxiety and irritability a few times a week.  They don’t last very long and they aren’t as intense as they were in my younger years.  I have found if I avoid high amounts of caffeine and carb rich foods, I do better on those days.  I also avoid certain conversations and topics because some topics often make me irritable or anxious or I just feel probably too strongly about.  If I seem less social the last few weeks than normal, that is why.  It’s nothing personal but I just want to avoid potential problems as much as possible, especially during traditionally tough times.

So far I’ve been doing pretty well and I want to keep it that way.  I can be really tough on family during my bad flare ups.  I’m sorry those have happened.  I think it would be better for all involved if I could just break down sobbing rather than being angry and lashing out.  I don’t know how much of that is my illness, where and when I grew up, being a man, etc.  But it is easier talking about my problems now than even ten years ago.  And when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago, I was scared to tell even my college friends.  So yes, progress has been made in those regards.  Often doesn’t feel like it during the day to day grinds.

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August 4 2019

Been a decent last few days overall.  Spent this afternoon cleaning some in my apartment.  I may have a cleaner come in once a week, but I do feel guilty if I don’t bare minimums on my own even with my limited mobility.  Haven’t needed as much sleep lately either.  Been usually going to bed around midnight, sleep three hours or four hours, stay awake until sunrise and then sleep again until ten a.m.  Haven’t been reading or writing as much as I would like this summer.  At least I have reestablished more regular contact with friends and family.  I felt guilty for not going to my family reunion last month.  But I wasn’t feeling the greatest and I didn’t want to have problems around people and scare them.  Sure my family would be more understanding than most families, but I don’t feel right taking out my issues on others.

Haven’t had any real bad meltdowns in months.  I have had a few close calls.  Fortunately, I have managed to not take them out on others.  I have had to avoid contact with people some days just so not to cause problems.  Even after twenty years with a mental illness, I am still afraid to have a meltdown in public.  I fear most people who don’t know me would not understand.  And many people are already more stressed than normal these days.

Found that listening to music helps sooth me.  So I’ve been listening to more music this summer.  I used to listen to music almost every day.  Even though heavy metal and blues were my favorite styles, I really didn’t have a style I didn’t like.  Youtube and Spotify are gold mines of good music, and my Spotify costs like 12 dollars a month for the service without advertisements.  It is not uncommon for me to have music on while I play Civilization or the Total War series.

Haven’t watched as much baseball this summer.  The Rockies are slightly below .500, so they won’t likely make the playoffs.  Haven’t watched much for sports since the U.S. women took the World Cup.  I got to see most of those games.  I have been watching old football highlights on youtube, mostly Nebraska from the 80s and 90s, to get ready for football season.  First college games are in only a few weeks.  Summer is definitely drawing down.

I guess I have been taking it easier than normal this summer.  I still lift weights three times a week and do the exercise bike a few times a week too.  I try to socialize some every day, even if it is just online or over the phone.  Social media isn’t as stressful for me as it was a few years ago now that I have figured out how to better use it.  I have lots of friends on my lists, but only a handful I actively follow on a day to day basis.  I spend a lot of time with small tech enthusiast groups.  I try to avoid the larger groups as they can sometimes become kind of irritable with each other on controversial topics.  I don’t post as much as I previously did, sometimes I’m more content to read linked articles and discussion threads.  I try not to get involved in heated or pointless discussions.  I make efforts not to feed trolls and troublemakers.

I believe that, overall, social media is a good thing. I also believe in free speech.  And when free speech and social media gets combined, it allows me to find out what people are really like quickly.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not.  But if privacy and deception aren’t dead, they are certainly on life support. Social media makes it easy for someone like myself who wants to have friends and be involved but doesn’t have great social skills.  I am a bit socially awkward in person, so that is probably why I didn’t make a lot of friends until I went to college and met people even more awkward and quirky than myself.  I don’t hide the fact I am eccentric and odd.  As a grown man, I don’t feel the need to try to please people I’m probably not going to please to begin with.  It’s too bad I couldn’t tell this to my teenage self.  But it comes only with experience.

Middle of Summer Stretch

Been quite hot here the last several days.  We had some flooding in my town a couple weeks ago.  It caused a few evacuations in the areas of town near the river.  Fortunately I missed the worst of it as I live on high ground. But it was kind of scary getting flood warnings on my phone every few hours.  My cleaning lady said one of her client’s entire basement flooded.  I’m glad we got it easy in my part of town.

Our complex had a major inspection last week.  We have those every few years, in part to make sure everything is up to speed.  As far as I know we did well.  We usually do.  Even though I live in low income housing, our managers have traditionally been on top of things and made points of dealing with issues before they became problems.  I had maintenance men in here doing some minor work a couple weeks ago.  I have been staying close to home for a couple weeks when we heard inspections were coming up.  Naturally, some people were a little more on edge than normal.  But since things have come and gone, it’s starting to calm down here.

Overall I think people in here, and people in general, are starting to calm down some.  Or maybe I’m able to deal with people easier than earlier.  I still don’t leave my house for long but I can when needed.  I noticed that people seem to be more civil to each other on social media than usual.  Or maybe it’s just my friends and family giving each other more slack.  I do love social media.  It is an easy way for someone who has issues with socializing to connect to old friends and make new ones.  I have a few new friends in my discussion groups, but I haven’t given out my phone number or email address.  I don’t give those out to people I don’t meet in person.

Summer is in full effect.  But it won’t be long before school starts again.  Our schools in town usually start about the third week in August.  My nephews and niece will be starting school in Oklahoma about the same time.  My eldest nephew will be starting high school this autumn.  I still remember the day he was born.  It was the summer after I graduated from college.  The days go slow but the years go fast.

Overall feeling decent most of the time.  I still occasionally have minor flare ups that don’t last very long.  Sometimes just stepping back and taking a few minutes to myself is enough to clear things.  Summers are usually a tough time for me.  But so far it’s been alright.

 

Dealing With Self Doubt

There are times when I am in the grip of a mental illness flareup that I fear that I make no difference.  I sometimes fear I make no difference in anything I do.  I fear I make no difference to my friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc.  I certainly fear that I make no difference with this blog even though I’ve poured my heart, soul, and life into it for years.

One of the things that makes me doubt myself and fear I don’t make a difference is that I constantly repeat myself.  As much as I repeat myself, especially when trying to share some positive news of what is going right, I get convinced my words and actions fall on only deaf ears and blind eyes.  I get burned out on telling people what is actually going right and that most of the doom and gloom that is the accepted spirit of our times are really temporary setbacks and not the end of the cosmos.  But no one outside of a handful of people are listening and what I say means nothing.  At least that is the impression my disease infested mind keeps giving.

Most times I can’t read a person or what they are thinking at any given moment.  I can’t easily gage the moment the moment thoughts even if I can easily trace long term trends and possibilities.  I suppose it’s similar to a military general who isn’t good at winning individual battles yet ends up winning an entire war simply because they are excellent long term planners.  Even as a child I was a much better long term thinker than I was on a short term.  And it used to irritate my friends, teachers, bosses, and parents real bad.  Anytime I tired to explain that they were sweating the small things while losing sight of the entire picture, well I was condemned for having problems with authority and being a hopeless dreamer.  Very few appreciated the fact that I was a long term thinker outside of a few cool teachers, my two best friends in high school, and my grandparents.

Of course this learned apprehension about not making any difference, at least not short term, has been made even worse by the mental illness.  I try my best to remind myself that I am making a difference and I am making people think and question why the status quo is the way it is.  And when I am not in the grips of the illness I know I am.  Sadly, when the illness wins out, I seriously doubt my own abilities and if I am making a difference.  I suppose it’s like a rapid version of the change of seasons or even high tide and low tide.  The human mind is that powerful in that it can make false or distorted perceptions into an individual’s reality.  We think, therefore we are I suppose.

I try telling people about the struggles involved in mental illness.  But during moments of weakness I fear I make no difference.  I know it’s not considered manly to express or feel fear or express and feel anything for that matter.  But I no longer care about the expectations of others.  Haven’t since I figured out at age seventeen that nothing I did would be considered good enough for some people.  Some people will never be satisfied with what I do simply because that is the way they are.  Such people are lost causes not worth even talking to or thinking about as far as I am concerned.  I deal with such people only when absolutely unavoidable.

I try telling people about the advances in science, tech, humanitarian efforts, etc.  But it makes no difference to most people.  I remember a line in The Matrix were an AI named Agent Smith stated to the effect that humans find definition and meaning in misery and suffering and are incapable of accepting happiness and peace.  I find this to be true in many of my day to day interactions with others, even with close friends and family.  I hope it’s the blinders cast by the illness that makes me think this way.  I really do.  Maybe we vastly overestimate how much can be done on the short term but vastly underestimate the changes that can be done medium to long term.

Perhaps that is why the days at a dead end job or raising small children drag on forever but the years and decades pass rapidly.  One day you’re 27 years old and get a bad annual review and a demotion from your boss or your two year old is screaming like he’s demon possessed because you won’t buy him a candy bar in the Wal Mart check out.  Those days feel like a torment right out of Dante’s Inferno.  But, wake up and you’re in your fifties and you’re the boss giving out bad annual reviews or you’re an elderly man on your death bed looking out at four generations of offspring from your marriage and feeling kind of bittersweet for not taking more time to appreciate your kids when they were asking endless questions or for foregoing summer vacations and weekends to work a thankless job that, not only didn’t miss you when you retired or got laid off, but can probably be done by a machine or algorithm better and cheaper.

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who never could imagine a world where their labor or delusional self importance wasn’t needed.  We are living in that said world.  Billions of dead people who couldn’t imagine a world as it is now and getting along just fine without them.  Our descendants will live in such a world that won’t remember us for what work we did or what stupid arguments we were part of or anything for that matter.  Because of genealogy, some people might get their names remembered for centuries.  But no one will remember or care what they believed, how they worked, how they treated their kids and spouse, how they voted, etc.

Rather than being saddened by this fact of life, I am actually encouraged by it.  I don’t have to save the world by myself.  I am not the center of the cosmos (thank God).  I am not responsible for the short sightedness and ignorance of others, only my own.  And I needlessly worry about how others live their lives, especially if it doesn’t directly harm me or those I care about.  I am not a superhero who has to save the world.  I’m essentially an independent scholar with numerous interests trying to encourage those I encounter in this adventure we call life.  Yet, because of my illness, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that I am just one man among billions of humans and that I don’t have to win all battles or save the cosmos on my own.

Nostalgia: It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Been spending most of my time alone the last several days.  And I’m actually quite happy with this arrangement.  And why not?  Most of my friends are going through the mid life crisis deals as my friends are in the mid thirties to early forties range.  I have a college friend who was diagnosed with cancer several months ago who’s only a year or two older than I am.  Most of my friends are struggling with debts and dead end careers, so they are constantly on edge about money.  I’ve had friends suffer through divorces.  I have a cousin whose son was diagnosed on the autism scale last year.  My best friend from my teenage years lost her mother to cancer two years ago.  Even in myself I don’t have as much get up and go as I did even three years ago.  But I am in my late 30s.  I’ll be 40 next summer yet I don’t dread it.  I don’t dread aging as much as most of my friends.  Most people think I’m weird  or lying when I say I actually look forward to being a wise elder.  I’m not lying or weird.  I’m just ahead of the curve and no longer fearing the inevitable.

I admit I don’t have much nostalgia.  I don’t long for the “good ol’ days” because, well, the good old days kinda sucked in many ways.  When exactly were the good old days?  Was it back in the 1990s when President Clinton was screwing his interns, computers occupied entire desks instead of fitting in shirt pockets, and the music of Tupac and Marilyn Manson were going to be the death of Western Civilization?  Was it back in the 1950s when using the n word was okay but Lucille Ball couldn’t say pregnant on network television and the threat of nuclear war was real?  “Better dead than red” people said back in those days.  And people were worried about the corrupting influence of rock and roll music.  Or was it in the Old West when boom towns like Dodge City and Tombstone were far more violent and lawless than any modern slum, women couldn’t vote, and bounty hunters got paid for Native American scalps?  Or was it in the Stone Age when everyone ate fresh and natural food, drank clean water, breathed unpolluted air, had no laws, no villages, half of children died before adulthood, and writing didn’t exist.  Even the 2010s will be considered the good old days in twenty years by nostalgic fools.  Nostalgia is a desert mirage.  It is imagined.  It isn’t real.  I haven’t fallen victim to nostalgia even though I’m on the door step of 40.  Hopefully I never fall victim to nostalgia.

I definitely never want to be one of these bitter and angry old men who complain about the kids.  Let’s get some thing real clear: every generation of “lousy kids” was supposed to be the death of civilization.  And it never happened.  If anything, most generations built upon what previous generations did and left science and humanitarian efforts further along than when they started.  I have zero patience for people who complain about young people.  Elders were complaining about how stupid and incompetent my classmates and myself were even when were in grade school in the 1980s.  I have never forgotten how hurtful and unfair that was.  I never will.  And for that reason I will never pull that kind of crap on people younger than me.  And it burns me to see people my age complaining about the kids coming up now.  The kids are not more unruly or weaker now than in the past.  The only thing kids have ever been guilty of is making old codgers realize that they will someday become irrelevant, they will someday die, and they will someday be forgotten.  Kids make old people uncomfortable because kids make elders confront their own hypocrisy, stupidity, and that they were too scared or lazy to try to chase their dreams.

I’m now seeing many of my cohorts becoming bitter and resentful about the bad decisions they made in their teens and twenties.  You should have left that dead end job and started your own business or moved to a different city.  Yeah, you should have majored in STEM or went to trade school instead of majoring in humanities or general business.  Maybe  you should have paid off your credit cards before they become unmanageable.  You shouldn’t have spent your teens and twenties partying, drugging, and having sex like there would be no price to pay.  You shouldn’t have put up with abusive boyfriends or manipulative girlfriends.  You should have called your mom more often.  Yeah, you shouldn’t have cut ties with your siblings.  You should have road tripped and traveled to foreign countries while you still had good health.  You should have gone to seen your favorite musician the night they performed in your hometown.  You shouldn’t have ignored that geeky girl or boy in your high school history class in favor of the school bully or queen bee.  I could go on.  But there are no do overs.  Learn and move on.  Quit romanticizing a past that never existed.  Learn from your bad decisions and be glad for the good decisions you did make.

June 19 2019

Been kind of quiet the last few days.  I’m still going to bed around 10pm and waking up for good around 4 or 5 am.  It feels like I get more done throughout the day now.  I don’t know if that’s just my perception fooling me, but I do feel more productive and energetic on days I wake up early.  I’ve been a night owl most of my life but that seems to be changing the older I get.  I’ve felt less anxious and paranoid since I started going to bed earlier.  Been doing this for a few months now.

Been feeling pretty stable.  I still have minor flare ups once in awhile.  But they usually quickly pass after several minutes.  I think they are getting easier to manage all the time. I can be irritable and anxious, yet if I keep silent almost no one knows I feel any kind of anxiety or irritability.  I never thought I was good at keeping my feelings and thoughts to myself.  But maybe I’m getting better about this in adult hood.  Some days I don’t socialize much.  Yet it seems to keep me sane and well grounded.  Sometimes my friends and family are going to be in foul moods.  It seems to be best if I avoid them on days when they are.  Sometimes I’m in a foul mood.  And it’s better when I avoid people when I’m in those funks.

I decided I’m not going to my class reunion.  I’m not sore at anyone from back home or anything like that.  It’s just I don’t have much in common with most of the people I grew up with anymore.  Adult hood has a way of changing a person.  I’m not the same person at age 39 I was at age 17.  Sometimes it feels like I’m looking at someone else’s life when I think back on my teenage years.  I was back in my hometown last slightly over a year ago.  I didn’t recognize most people living there anymore.  Most of the teachers and mentors I had as a kid are either elderly or dead.  Most my friends from that era have moved far away.  Some of them aren’t the people who would enjoy reunions and probably won’t be going.  My closest friends live at least a three hour drive away from me anymore.  My parents and brother live two states away.  And while I’m on friendly terms with most people in my complex, even after thirteen years at my current apartment I still don’t feel like I fit in.  I hope that is my illness talking and not what is really going on.

One of the lousiest parts of my illness is that I am never sure where I stand with anyone. I’m not even sure where I stand with my best friends and family many times unless they specifically tell me we are on good terms.  The illness makes it easy to jump to conclusions and form fears that aren’t based in any reality.  And it doesn’t help that I tend to over think and over analyze people and situations naturally.  I know my desire for constant reassurance annoys friends and family.  I am convinced it killed my ability to enjoy dating or even get dates to begin with.  As it is I haven’t been on a date in a dozen years and I don’t want to date ever again.  It’s just more headaches for me than it’s worth.  At this point in my life I greatly prefer friendships to romances.  I never understood why it was such a bad thing to be friends with a dating interest or a spouse.  And I never will.  The fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce and a significant portion of those that do last for life are unhappy drudgeries tells me that we as a modern society are doing dating and marriage all wrong.  People are not meant to spend their lives in drudgery, anguish, misery, and desperation.

As much as the mental illness knocks me down on occasion, I am overall happy and content with my life.  Sure I could stand to lose some weight and isolate less.  I probably will live longer if I drop some weight and be more social.  As far as how my life has turned out, it could be much worse with this illness.  At least I’m not dead or in prison.  At least I don’t have addictions.  At least I don’t have debts.  At least I’m on good terms with my family and have managed to keep some really cool friends.  And even the ones I’ve lost contact with over the years we can probably pick up if we ever encounter each other.  Considering the illness I really don’t have many regrets I could have done anything different about.

Avoiding Toxic and Negative People While Mentally Ill

I haven’t been socializing much lately outside of family and close friends.  I don’t post on facebook much anymore because I have better uses of my time than debate and defend myself against negative and toxic people.  It seems to me that the negativity on social media tends to ebb and flow, almost like the tides.  And sometimes I have runs where I’m the only one I know (it seems) who even tries to stay optimistic and positive.  In cases like this, a vacation from the social media circus is in order.  I’ve been doing this for several days now.  I still go on once or twice a day just to see if my friends, family, and chat groups are up to anything new.  And in cases when everything is going negative and irritable, I limit my responses and posts to bare minimum.  I try not to philosophize and ask deep questions anymore, even on friends sites.  It’s kind of tough as I am a bit of a philosopher and researcher by nature.  Have been my entire life.  Joe Rogan put it well when he said to the effect ‘do high achievers spend their time answering critics on twitter?’  Of course not.  I doubt most high achievers and celebrities spend much time on social media.  I imagine most of their posts are really done by a public relations worker.

I used to live on social media.  It could be fun and it could also be stressful.  But like any new tech advances, there is a a learning curve to social media.  I try not to post things I know will start unneeded arguments.  And let’s be honest, most arguments on social media are not needed and aren’t productive.  I doubt scientists trying to accomplish things like making safe AI, trying to crack nuclear fusion, trying to cure cancer, or develop treatments to slow aging, etc. are getting into twitter arguments or trolling scientists working for rival companies or universities.  But I guess I don’t see as nasty and personal of insults online as I did even a couple years ago.  It still happens, but I think an unwritten code of ethics and conduct is starting to develop when it comes to social media.

But I still make a point of avoiding people when they are being negative.  I certainly avoid toxic people who run down other people, especially those trying to do something constructive with their lives.  I guess I really don’t have the patience to put up with negative people.  I don’t want to be bothered with them.  Let them stay away until they stop being so negative and irritable.  My mental illness makes it easier to sink into negativity than it would for most other people.  That’s why I force myself to read optimistic literature and search for good news stories.  I am not a natural optimist.  But I do look at data and trends.

I avoid negative and toxic people but not out of spite.  I avoid these people because I don’t want to be toxic and negative myself.  I have had many bouts of negativity and depression over the years.  I’ll probably be more prone to fall into negativity and toxic behavior for the rest of my life, barring some major breakthroughs in medical and psychological treatments.  I avoid toxic and negative people for my own health and well being.  It’s nothing personal.