Things I Am Grateful For

I know I have been more short tempered and irritable than usual lately.  But even with the attacks of anxiety and irritability I’ve been having lately (along with my strong desire to just stay home and sleep) I am still grateful for many things.  I thought I would publish a list of what I am thankful for, if for no other reason, even mental illness allows me to see the good in things at times.  So here goes

 

Things I am grateful for

 

Being Alive

Being Able to Read and Write

Having Access to History’s Knowledge and Wisdom via the Internet

Science

The Bill of Rights

People Who Attempt to Right the Wrongs of Life

Bacon and Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Buffalo Chicken

Red Seedless Grapes

Quirky Friends

Rain Storms (minus the floods and hail)

Friendship (or the family I’m not blood relation to as I call it)

Indoor Plumbing

Hot Baths

Soap (vastly underrated as far as I’m concerned)

Home Delivery Services

Problem Solvers

Modern Medicine

The Ability to Socialize Without Leaving the Comfort of My House via communications tech

The Ability to Drive A Car But Living in a Time and Place Where I Don’t Have To As Much as even Five Years Ago

Velvetta Cheese

Greek Yogurt (I’m especially keen on Honey and Vanilla flavors)

Watching College Football on Chilly Fall Afternoons

Watching Baseball on Warm Sumer evenings

Getting Out of College Debt Free

Knowing That Sometimes It’s Okay To Take The Loss And Regroup (had to do this when I applied for disability once it became clear I couldn’t support myself by a job because of the illness)

The sci fi stories of Issac Asimov

The horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft

The Cosmos Series (both the Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson versions)

Watching Science and Tech talks on Youtube

My tech enthusiasts groups on Facebook

The friends I had in high school I still have twenty years after graduation.

The friends I had in college I still have fifteen years after graduation.

Being Able to Ask For Help and The Realizations That It Doesn’t Make Me Incompetent or Unmanly to Do So

Seeing Things I Hoped and Worked For Come Into Being

I Can Live Healthier, Better Informed, Better Educated, Better Fed, etc. than even the Kings of the Renaissance and the Industrial Magnates of one hundred years ago (yet still be considered below the poverty line by 2019 standards)

People Solving Problems Even If We Don’t Hear About It

The Unsung Heroes (doctors, nurses, craftspeople, emergency personnel, good mothers and fathers, good kids who may not be straight A students or star athletes or high achievers,  artists who make good work but are never known beyond friends and family, self employed business people who provide valuable service to their neighborhoods but never make it ‘wealthy’, etc.)

Vacuum Cleaners

Small Changes Can Make A Large Difference Given Enough Time

 

These are just some I could mention just here and now.  This is not intended to be a complete list.  It’s important to remember some perspective sometimes when we get too deep into the day to day struggles that we forget what has already been achieved and won.

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Diet and Exercise Routines Rebooted and The Art of Online Socializing

Spring is here finally.  Mentally feeling good for the most part.  I sometimes have flare ups of paranoia and irritability, but fortunately those quickly pass.  I have noticed that as I have made changes to my diet and sleep patterns, the bouts of paranoia and irritability get less severe and easier to deal with.

Been lifting weights and eating healthier for three weeks.  I’m starting to notice some positive changes.  I find myself eating less overall.  I lost most of my cravings for sugar and carbs.  Some days, like today, I don’t eat meat (big change for me).  On days like this I get my protein from things like peanuts and beans.  I haven’t eaten fast food in months even though I live within walking distance of at least six restaurants.  And I used to eat fast food three times per week.  It just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  It just leaves me feeling weighed down and lethargic.  I feel the same way about soda pop.  I have cut back on my caffeine to where I usually have only one or two cups of coffee in the morning and that is it.

Anymore I try not to spend much time on social media except to chat with people.  I almost never look at other people’s profiles, preferring to chat via groups or personal messaging.  It has helped lower my anxiety and irritability.  Besides, I have no need to know everything even my best friends and family do on a minute to minute basis.  It seems like many people I know aren’t as active on social media as previously.  But, I have always preferred quality to quantity in terms of conversations.  Just because I can know something about even friends doesn’t mean I want to.  Some things I am just not interested in.  I just don’t have enough time or energy to respond to things I like, let alone everything else.  I don’t get mad over every piece of advertisements I get in my mail box (and most of what I get in the mail anymore is junk mail), so I feel the same way anymore about when my friends or family post things that I am not interested in.  I rarely post comments on youtube or twitter anymore, let alone read comment sections.  I just don’t have time to.  I’m too busy finding things I enjoy and doing things I like to engage with people I’ll probably never meet.  When I do engage with people I’ll never meet, it’s over shared interests and I try to act as if I’m talking to these people over a cup of coffee in person rather than just behind a computer screen and keyboard.  My online interactions have become more enjoyable and civil once I tricked myself into believing I have having these conversations with someone sitting in the same room with me.  It doesn’t always work, but my online interactions are less contentious and stressful than even three years ago.

Having Access to The World Without Leaving Home or Wearing Pants and Shoes

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My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids.  They seem to be adapting to suburb life well.  They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services.  And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard.  Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks.  But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at.  I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs.  I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself.  It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.

Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years.  I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice.  They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church.  My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s.  He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma.  I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.

I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away.  But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to.  I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now.  I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door.  Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too.  As I always had odd sizes.  Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny.  Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.

If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning.  I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer.  He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.

And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting.  I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off.  I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose.  The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine.  I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room.  I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT.  I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.

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Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers.  With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City.  Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find.  As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war.  I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.

Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past.  Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore.  There was an old song about having the world on a string.  I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet.  I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to.  I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.

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Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors.  But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born.  All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000.  Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time.  Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago.  I have hope.  Everyone else should too.

Love, Romance, and Valentine’s Day With A Mental Illness

Today, February 14, is Valentine’s Day.  I know for some people it’s a reason to buy gifts, go out for dinners, and be romantic.  Others are more depressed about not being in a romantic relationship and feeling left out.  But since it is a day the world at large takes some time and makes efforts to reflect on the value of romantic love, it is a good an opportunity as any to reflect back on my experiences with romance, dating, and love as a man with schizophrenia.

I am currently unmarried and not in a romantic relationship of any kind.  At this point in my life I am content and happy with this setup.  This wasn’t always the case though.  As a teenage male, I had deeper feelings than many people and often showed my emotions more than many people thought appropriate, especially for a boy.  When I was ten years old I broke down crying over a girl I was sweet on who publicly turned me down.  It made matters worse in that it was at a school sponsored event attended by my parents.  Both my parents made it a point to tell me off in public for crying and being emotional.  They told me off again when we got home that night.  I never forgot that.  It was also the first time in my life I got my heart broken over a girl.  Of course it wasn’t the last.  Fortunately it did begin to steel my resolve in that yes it hurts getting rejected and shamed in public, but I survived and became stronger because of it.

I had my heart broke again a couple more times in early puberty by being rejected by girls I was interested in spending time with over the next two years.  Didn’t sting as bad as the first one but they did make me more resilient with each rejection.

When I was thirteen, I met the girl who would ultimately become my best friend in high school.  We hung out a lot, spent time at each other’s houses, traded books and magazines like some kids traded baseball cards, played video games together, and generally did things that friends do together as teenagers.  She was home schooled until high school, so she didn’t have the same day to day experiences in junior high I did.  I was still being rejected by girls I liked over the next three years, but it got to where I just got numb to it and accepted it as a part of living.  Eventually after three years of friendship, I developed romantic feelings for her.  We went on several dates, nothing really more formal than just going to dances and the movies.  But we were never intimate or even affectionate besides the occasional hugs when one of us was feeling down and depressed.  We did kiss a few times.  As good as that felt, we both had an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t pursue a romantic relationship.  We just valued the friendship too much.  It was a short term painful decision but one in the long term turned out to be a brilliant move.

She moved out of state when we were eighteen.  I went off to college at age nineteen a more hopeless romantic than ever even though my mental health problems were beginning.  I had a couple slight crushes on a couple girls in my freshman class.  So much so that I didn’t recognize that there were at least two other girls who were sweet on me.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  I thought they were just pleasant and decent people to everyone they met.  There was a third girl who came flat out and told me she had feelings for me that weren’t typical friendship but of a romantic nature.  But I just didn’t feel the same way.  So I explained to her as carefully, tactfully, and honestly as I could that I didn’t feel the same way.  And I refused to insult her by acting like I had feelings for her when I didn’t just so I could have a steady date.  Acting like you have feelings for someone when you don’t just to be in a relationship or not to hurt their feelings is actually a cruel thing to do, especially long term.  Turns out that one girl I had feelings for dated my best friend for a few weeks.  That put a damper on my feelings for her though I never forgot her.

Near the end of my freshman year, I met my college sweetheart and started my only really hardcore romantic relationship.  We had some great times, had some arguments (like all dating couples), broke up and got back together a couple times, over the course of the next two years.  I eventually decided to call off the dating relationship shortly before 9/11 because I could tell my mental illness wasn’t going well with the highs and lows of the dating relationship.  For the last three years of college I didn’t date at all.  I was polite and decent to everyone I met, had lots of acquaintances I could join study groups with or go to sporting events on campus, but I had only a handful of extremely close friends whom I could do and tell everything to.

After I graduated from college I went back home because, like many college graduates, I didn’t have a job lined up by the time I graduated.  I felt embarrassed by this at the time but I would eventually find out I wasn’t alone and this was the new normal.  After a few months of working a dead end job, I had enough of my childhood hometown.  I realized my career was going nowhere, all my old friends moved away, and I had no prospects for friends or a career in my location.  I also didn’t have enough money to move away on my own.  I talked to my parents about moving to a larger town.  I was immediately shot down because they wouldn’t help me if I didn’t have a job offer in another town.  And I previously had several job interviews where I was told they would have hired me if I was local.  Made me very angry.  I couldn’t relocate because I had no job and I was getting rejected for jobs because I didn’t live nearby.

Finally in February 2005, I lied to my parents about a job offer I had in a town that was only a couple hours away from them but had decent opportunities, a state university, and much better health care.  I convinced them to help me move and pay for the deposit on a small apartment.  It was a cheap place I could live in as I had a few months of living expenses saved up so I could find a job.  It was the first time in my entire life I lied for personal gain rather than protection or privacy reasons.  I felt guilty that it had to be that way at the time.  But I am so glad I did looking back on it years later.  Sometimes breaking the rules and disregarding authority has to be done to do the right thing.  Life isn’t as black and white and cut and dry as far too many people make it to be.

For the first couple weeks I was out several hours every day giving my resume and filling out applications to places that would pay me enough to meet my living expenses.  I also applied to the local college to take master’s degree classes.  I had three job offers and a new job within the first three weeks in my new town, compared to only one in my childhood hometown in the several months I was back home.  Location is key, my friends.  You can have all the qualifications there are, yet if you are in a location that doesn’t suit those skills, you have to relocate.  There are no two ways about it.

I still occasionally asked girls out but still got rejected.  I finally had a long distance relationship that went quite well for several months.  I surprised her by driving to her hometown on Valentine’s Day 2006.  I had just gotten offered a decent job after I lost my job at the college because of my bad grades, which were because of my mental illness really beating me up.  The surprise was on me because she had to work a double shift that day.  I had to wait several hours before she got home.  Fortunately her mother took pity on me and kept me company until she got off work.  That was a whirlwind of a relationship.  We called it off that summer because we could tell it would never evolve into a marriage.  We just had different priorities, values, and interests to make a marriage work.  It stung at the time but I’m glad it ended before we got married.

In 2008 I qualified for disability insurance.  I had my safety net finally.  My life settled down and I didn’t have the highs and lows I did in previous years.  I also came to the conclusion I was better off without trying to date or be in a relationship.  I am definitely not anti marriage or anti love.  I just know with my mental illness, my personality, my values, etc. I would make a lousy boyfriend and husband.  I would make a lousy father too and I would feel guilty if I had children who became mentally ill because they inherited it from me.  As far as being lonely, that’s why I keep in contact with old friends and stay on good terms with family.  I have a much better relationship with my mother and father now in my late thirties than I ever did at any point in my life.  Like many children I regarded my parents like superheroes when I was six, clueless buffoons when I was twelve, would be fascist dictators at age seventeen I wanted to be free from, wise counsel and backups at age twenty eight, and now more like myself and close friends now that I am age thirty eight.  It’s been a long and strange journey these thirty eight years as a human and these twenty plus as being a man with mental illness.

Even though I have had a mental illness since my teenage years, and was eccentric my entire life, I was still interested in romance and the love of a good woman.  Sometimes I had that, many times I didn’t.  And as I have aged I have made my peace with what went on in the past.  I accept that I can’t change what went on.  I also wouldn’t change it if I had that power.  I am grateful for my experiences with romance, love, and dating while having a mental illness.  It taught me much about myself, mental illness, human nature, and life.  I wouldn’t trade any of it.  At this point in my life I am content to remain unattached.  I don’t know if this will always be the case and I don’t have to know.  I know not what tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or even years from now will bring or how I will develop.  I’m just staying open to whatever happens and comes my way.

Mid Winter and Push For Spring

It’s been a good weekend and I’m looking forward to the start of this new week.  Got most of the issues from my last post resolved.  Had to focus more than usual and just spend more time than usual resolving things.  Being free to fit and fume helped too. Sometimes I just have to get a good rant off my mind and out of my system.  I’ve been having as many rants as previously but, fortunately, they have turned into breakdowns only once in the last year.  I don’t know if I’m getting calmer in my middle age years or if I’m just getting better at coping with the hang ups of schizophrenia.  Either way it feels much better than even five years ago, certainly more than fifteen years ago when I was still figuring out what limitations the illness placed on me.

Tomorrow, February 12, is the birthday of one of my cousins and one of my best friends.  My father had a birthday earlier in the month and my mother’s is in a few days.  For being the shortest month of the year, I sure know lots of people with February birthdays. I guess birthdays are a good reason to celebrate during the otherwise cold and drawn out days of middle winter.  Baseball spring training games start in a couple weeks, so I look forward to that.  My Rockies made the playoffs the last two years, but lost out early on both times.  Hopefully they can put together something special this year.  I attending one of their World Series games in Denver with a college friend in 2007.  Even though the Rockies lost the Series, seeing that game in person and experiencing that type of atmosphere is one of the highlights of my twenties.

In other reasons to look forward to spring, my best friend is a huge Game of Thrones fan.  The new season will be starting on April 14, ironically the day before tax deadline here in USA.  I don’t watch the series only because I’d rather not pay to get HBO, but I have seen enough highlights on youtube that I do know some of the characters and story lines.  Sometimes I like to give her a little ribbing about GoT fans being as crazy as some of us football and baseball fans, but I mean it all in good fun.  Just from watching highlights on youtube I can understand how people can follow the series like they do.  I play Skyrim a great deal and joke it’s similar to an interactive version of GoT.  I intentionally tried to design the character I’m currently using to look like Jon Snow.  While it kind of does, my character does bare a striking resemblance to Daniel Day-Lewis in the old Last of The Mohicans movie, which is one of my all time favorite movies.

It’s been a long and cold winter it seems.  Have been lucky to avoid the snow amounts most of the country has gotten so far.  But I’m looking forward to warmer and sunny weather again.  I forced myself outside into prolonged sunlight at least once a week no matter how cold it is just to get some Vitamin D.  It seems to help alleviate the boredom of winter.  But spring officially starts in only five weeks.  We’re more than halfway through winter, or summer for my Southern Hemisphere readers.

Winter Stability With Mental Illness

Been rather uneventful the last several days.  I’ve been stable overall and staying sane.  I keep in contact with friends and family on a daily basis, even on the days I don’t leave my apartment complex.  I think I’m continuing to lose weight as my stamina is slowly increasing, my aches and pains are taking less time to overcome, and I don’t sleep twelve hours a day anymore.  I now usually sleep eight.  Most nights I go to bed around nine or ten p.m and wake up around four or five a.m.  I usually wake up once in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom.  I also sometimes nap for an hour or two in the afternoons.

I recently hired a cleaning person.  She arrives once a week to help me keep the place up and cleaned.  I get along with her fine.  I hope I can keep her for a long time.  I lost my last cleaner after she had heart problems and had to retire.

Winter is treating me alright.  Fortunately January hasn’t been as bitterly cold as December, at least not yet.  We had a big snow right after Christmas but most of that has melted by now.  I can get out and about in my car, but some days I’m just content to stay at home.  I stay in contact with family and friends, often online.  Reminds me of the comic where the mother is telling her son to get outside and spend time with friends.  And the boy says “But mom, I am spending time with my friends.  We are all online.”

I find myself eating less this winter than previously.  I still eat two protein rich meals per day, but the portions are getting smaller and I feel less hungry between meals.  I also cut out most sugar and grains.  Now I love foods like fried rice, spaghetti, etc.  But they do make me feel sluggish and slow if I eat too many.  I just feel better on days I don’t eat many carbs as opposed to days I do.  It does mean spending more on groceries because I do better with proteins and fresh vegetables, but feeling better with fewer aches and pains is worth the cutbacks I have made in other parts of my life.

Bought myself a few new computer games with the Christmas money my parents gave me.  Been experimenting with those.  Also, got my PS3 straightened out so it rarely runs slow now.  It was a pain to be playing Skyrim or college football only to have the game run slow or even completely freeze up in the middle of the action.  One of the games I bought for my computer is called ‘Stellarius’.  It’s kind of a futuristic Civilization type game where you can go colonize other star systems, mine astroids and gas giants, and contact other intelligent species.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  It’s one of the most complex and nuanced games I ever saw.  It’ll take awhile for me to figure it out.

I’m doing well on my new psych medications.  Things have seemed to settle down.  I’m glad for it.  I’m looking forward to the rest of winter.

December Routines and Socializing While Mentally Ill

Been staying close to home the last several days.  Did get outside for a couple hours today just to replenish on sunshine even though it was barely above freezing.  I am staying occupied even if I don’t leave my house much.  Cleaned some in my apartment this weekend.  I also cut my hair.  I bought myself a hair trimmer for Christmas and wacked off my hair.  I had let it grow shoulder length.  With that length of hair and my full beard I was looking like an extra from Game of Thrones.  Now I look like a military recruit at the start of Basic Training.

Been exercising at home lately.  I got a stationary exercise bike from my dad before he moved out of state.  I use that several times a week.  My stamina is slowly coming back.  And, unlike walking, it doesn’t really bother my lower back.  My sleep patterns have changed too.  Anymore I usually go to bed around 9 or 10pm usually to wake up at 5 or 6 am.  Most of my awake time is spent in daylight hours now even though it is late autumn.

I still don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas.  It depends largely on the weather.  I would love to go see my parents’ new house and my brother’s family.  I saw his kids over the summer but I haven’t seen him or my sister in law since Thanksgiving 2017.  I guess if I can’t go see them in person I’ll have to dust off my Skype and talk to them that way.  I am looking forward to the college football holiday bowl season.  That has always been one of my favorite sports events over the years.  I enjoy watching football and it gives me a chance to see teams I don’t see very often.

Been chatting with old friends more often lately.  I guess now that the end of the year holidays are here, people are taking more time to reconnect to family and friends.  Even though I don’t usually talk to many people in person, it’s not because I hate people.  I usually don’t talk to people in person as much if I don’t have common interests.  I have always thought it would be cool if there were entire communities of people with similar interests and passions living together, much like college dormitories or artists’ communes.  But I guess good luck getting such set ups for science and history enthusiasts together without the considerations of money or jobs.  Maybe in future centuries there will be such places.  For now, I guess hobbies and interests groups on social media are the next best thing.

I have spent much of my life alone because I have rarely known people with my kind of interests and passions.  College was fun in that I did meet many people with my interests.  It was also a place where being eccentric and quirky wasn’t condemned but generally tolerated.  I miss that about living in the adult world, not many people with my interests and generally little tolerance for being different than the norm, especially in work places and social settings.

I was never a conformist as a kid and I certainly refuse to be one now.  Sure it has made me lonely over the years and on the receiving end of much harassment and abuse, especially in the work place.  But I can’t stand the thought of being just another soulless empty suit in an office or another cog in an industrial wheel.  Maybe disability was the best thing that could have happened to me in this regard.  As much as I didn’t fit in during my teenage years, I fit in even worse in the workplace and adult dating scene.  But I no longer regret either one.  In fact, I am thankful for this.