I’ve been sleeping more than I would prefer lately. But I have found over the years if I want to sleep more than normal, there is usually a good reason for it. I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it what is says it needs more often. Learning to live with mental illness is mainly a trial and error kind of thing. It wasn’t learned immediately. Sadly mental illness is one of those tests that is impossible to study for. I had no idea what having schizophrenia meant when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago. But then, there is no way I could have known just by reading some books and going to a psychiatrist. Mental illness effects everything about a life it inflicts just by the nature of the illness. And since the human brain is the most complex piece of biological machinery we have seen (at least unless we discover alien intelligences superior to our own), it is one of those we still don’t know much about.
One of the things that gives me hope, maybe not for myself so much as future generations afflicted with mental illness problems, is that we are learning more about the human brain every day. I don’t know if I’ll live to see the fruition of much of this research, but I am encouraged that there is now a push to learn this and see if we can design better treatments with fewer side effects. As much as I am appreciative of what my anti psych treatment has done for my mental state, there has been a price I had and am still having to pay for this stability.
One of the side effects of my psych treatments is that I gained a lot of weight over the years. I won’t go into exact numbers but I will say I weigh at least one hundred pounds more than I did when I was first diagnosed. Yet, I was for all purposes not functioning when I was diagnosed. I was having mental breakdowns two to three times a week, I could sleep only a couple hours a night, I wanted to spend all my time alone and just avoid people, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even read a single page of a book. I guess my options were I could keep my physical health but be completely dysfunctional mentally or I could regain my mental stability but have a weakened body because of it. Not optimal choices by any means. But I’m glad I opted for the better mental health. Otherwise I’d probably be dead or in prison.
Even though my physical health has declined over the years, in part because of the treatment’s side effects and the nature of the illness itself, I consider the price to be worth it. At least for me the price of losing much of my physical vitality was worth the price of keeping myself together mentally. I have also lost most interest in sex and socializing in person because of the illness. I haven’t dated in at least ten years and I don’t like going to social functions much anymore. But I guess there are always trade offs. I’m actually glad that I was not as ruled by my hormones as most younger men. It saved me much headache and heartache, especially in my late twenties and early thirties when it became obvious to me that I would never have a wife or children through no fault of my own.
I am not anti marriage or anti family. I’m quite the opposite actually. I see my brother and his wife and children as well as my cousins with their spouses and children and I see that, if done properly, family is the best thing that can happen to a person. I think it really does have a calming effect on people, young men especially, and forces people to be more long term thinkers than they normally would. I would have loved to had a wife and a couple kids with the picket fence and apple pie kind of life. But with the mental illness and the hangups involved, I know I would make a lousy husband and father. As it was I couldn’t manage a minimum wage job with my mental illness even though I was an honors graduate in high school. So the next best thing is to write about my experiences with mental illness as my purpose for my work and be a good son to my parents and a good uncle to my brother’s kids. I’m interested to see where this all leads.
I’m currently at my parents’ house. Been here for a few days. I’m using this time away from city and apartment life to reset and recharge. I haven’t been anywhere outside of my current home city since Thanksgiving. I had gotten stale and stuck in my routines. I imagine this happens to a lot of people in their mid thirties with careers and families where it sometimes becomes month after month of nothing but job and family responsibility. It happened to me and I don’t even have a family or a traditional job. I spent so long doing the responsible adult routines that I forgot why I was doing them or what I was living for. I have found that it sneaks up on all too easily. I haven’t even been fishing for over two years and I used to go fishing almost every weekend during the summers as far back as high school. I want to do more of that once the weather warms again.
While I haven’t been subject to nasty psych breakdowns for months, I have been having problems with anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Because of these issues, I had been not leaving my apartment except when absolutely necessary for several weeks. I finally had enough of this and came to the conclusion that changes were needed. To help this change along, I left my apartment and came to my parents’ house in the small village I grew up in. In my younger years, I used to travel some at least once a week. Sometimes I would come to my parents’ place for a day or two or I would just go places with friends. Once I got serious about the blog and started having issues with chronic pain, those travels became almost nonexistent. I haven’t seriously road tripped since before my car accident in October 2015. I think as a result of not seeing anything different and just seeing the same neighbors day after day made me stale and more closed minded than I would have liked. I even ran into the rut of only eating in the same three or four restaurants when I did dine out, did that for two years. Routine can be settling for mentally ill people, yet too much for too long can be mentally and physically unhealthy. It was even starting to make me a jaded and bitter old man far before my time. So glad I was able to break out and see something different for a few days, even if it is just my childhood home.
Been several days since I last wrote. An update is in order. I’m still sleeping more than I would like. To see if I can change this around, I’m starting to sleep in a recliner. When I slept in my recliner because of back pains, I would usually be awake shortly after sunrise and sleep only 6 to 7 hours per night. As it is now, I have been sleeping 10 to 14 hours a night for much of the summer. Something has to change. Mentally I have been feeling well for months. Since late summers are usually the toughest time of year for me, I have been reluctant to change much this summer. As good as I have been feeling lately I haven’t wanted to change my meds or routines. But this sleeping twelve hours a day and being up most of the night can’t be kept up. My social life is hurting because of it and I haven’t been outside of my hometown all summer. I have to make some changes.
I think some of my neighbors may be worried about me considering how little I socialize in my complex and how I often sleep during the days. I try to keep out of peoples’ ways and keep to myself most days lately. This is a change as I used to be more social than I am now. I think I don’t socialize much mainly because of the paranoia I still sense when I’m around large groups of people or out in public. Even though I have much of the depression and hallucinations of schizophrenia taken care of, I still deal with some paranoia and social anxiety. I haven’t dealt with this level of social anxiety in several years like what I’m dealing with now. Sometimes I’m even too anxious to run regular errands like buying groceries until I absolutely need to. Needless to say, this isn’t healthy. And with winter coming up, I’m just going to have to break out of this anxiety somehow and start buying more than a few days worth of food at a time. Some winters we can get big blizzards that will shut things down for a couple days. And of course ice storms also make traveling during the winter tough. So I think I have no choice but to “feel the fear and do it anyway” and just start stocking up for when the weather turns cold in a couple months. Fortunately I tend to be more stable in the winter and spring than summer and early autumn.
I haven’t had a regular counselor for several months. Not because I was upset with my counselor or anything like that. It’s just that I got stable enough I didn’t think I really needed it. Mentally I’m stable and have been for months. I still face some social anxiety and do feel anxious about driving somedays. That’s the big reason I haven’t left my hometown all summer.
One of the good things about living as an adult with mental illness that I didn’t have in my late teens when this mental illness was just getting started is that I can still keep in contact with people real easy as opposed to twenty years ago. I may sometimes rant about the abuses that people do with their Facebook and twitter accounts, but they are still good ways to keep in touch with people from my high school, college, and extended family. I definitely regretted not going to my family reunion this summer, especially since my mother and father were the main hosts. But the anxiety was that strong. I know the anxiety exists in my brain and mind but the mind is strong enough that it can make anxiety real enough to be crippling in some cases. I have friends who have problems with anxiety and depression too. It breaks my heart that I often can’t do much to help them out other than being a sounding board and listen to them. I tend to be a problem solver by nature, but sometimes things like depression, anxiety, and mental illness simply don’t have immediate solutions.
Even though it’s been a little more winter like the last few days, I can tell that spring is on the way. I’m starting to sleep less and even wake up earlier. I haven’t pulled an all nighter in over a week. I’m starting to do grocery shopping at night like I did in the past instead of at like 3 am. I’m chatting with friends more and starting to sort out my apartment. I had gotten lazy about cleaning since Christmas, so that was needing to change.
Mentally I’m as stable as I have been in a long time. I still don’t socialize much in person even if I make it a point to leave my apartment several times a day. Sometimes I leave for something as simple as getting soda pop at the convenience store just to get out of my apartment. I haven’t had any real bad flare ups for weeks. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t socialize that much or if I’m settling into a calm period. Late winters and springs are usually the most stable times of year for me. Late summers and early falls are always tough.
In other news, my niece and three nephews are coming to Nebraska for a few days over spring break. I haven’t seen those kids since last summer. It’ll be fun to touch base with them. I don’t get to see them very often. I do wish I lived closer to my brother and his family. Even though my brother and I weren’t close when we were growing up, I still think it’s important to keep touch with family members. Besides my parents are in their late 60s and they aren’t getting any younger. After a friend of mine told me her mom had cancer, it made me realize that easily could be my parents struggling with their health. And it got me thinking about my own health. Working against a chronic mental illness for twenty years has taken a toll on my physical health. I don’t get sick with viruses or infections very often, but I can tell I don’t have the physical strength I had even ten years ago. And people with schizophrenia tend to have shorter life spans to begin with. I can tell the stress of the mental illness is starting to wear me down. There is a connection between mental health and physical health I am convinced.
The winter is essentially over. We will probably have a couple more snows but they won’t be the type that stay around for weeks. I’m already starting to make plans for spring. And I’ll probably start spring cleaning and maintenance next week. I have a couple projects I need to get done that I’ve been putting off for weeks. It’s time to come out of my hibernation and winter exile.