Disasters and Mental Illness

Staying closer to home again lately. The cases of covid are increasing again. It’s only a matter of time before it hits my hometown again. With the bad heat waves the western part of the country has experienced, we have had more rain the normal. It too is only a matter of time before the heat waves hit my hometown. We don’t have the water shortages that places like California and Arizona have. But I think if my state gets that level of drought, a new Dust Bowl will result.

Being prepared for disasters is extremely important. If wildfires, freak blizzards, and chronic flooding can’t convince some people, nothing will. Growing up in a rural farming community over an hour’s drive away from the nearest Wal Mart and Home Depot, it was necessary to have enough supplies to be able to fend for ourselves for at least a few days in the event of a bad blizzard or flooding. Growing up around farmers, I personally know several farmers who have lost entire corn crops to hail storms and floods.

When the covid disaster relief payments came, I made a point of buying extra food, over the counter medications, and clothing. I also bought a new computer. My old one was starting to die and I was afraid prices were going to go up with the shortage on microchips. And prices are going up. I certainly pay more for food than I did even two years ago. Clothing prices have increased. And gas prices are on the rise. When the Colonial pipeline in the southern states was shut down by hackers, I remember thinking if I was an Uber driver in Atlanta who had a Tesla, I’d probably have more work than I could handle. As it is, I no longer have a car. Sold it two years ago. But, since I can get anything within reason delivered to my apartment and I don’t road trip anymore, it made little sense to keep a car. If I really need to go anywhere, I can hire an Uber driver or sweet talk one of my neighbors into giving me a ride and offer gas money in return.

In addition to natural disasters, many people are more on edge than usual. A friend of a friend had a gun pulled on her a few days ago. My friend in Denver said she’s dealing with far more rude and angry customers than even a few years ago. My brother and his family moved out of their suburb and bought a place with a large lot just outside of the city right before housing prices skyrocketed. I have two friends in Omaha, both college educated, working two jobs each barely just scraping by. Gone are the days when a father could support a family of six kids with a factory job. Lots of people are hurting. And we are turning on each other instead of working together to solve problems.

Our science, tech, medicine, etc. are what’s keeping us afloat. Other institutions, namely politics, haven’t kept up with the changes in tech and world affairs. I can’t imagine how much worse covid would be if we still didn’t have vaccinations or work from home options. People who were saying this covid isn’t as bad as Spanish Flu was 100 years ago may have to back track those words. They certainly would if not for the efforts of scientists, doctors, nurses, farm workers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers, merchant marine sailors, etc.

July 11 2021

Been quiet the last few days. Staying close to home as it’s been really hot when it hasn’t been raining. Looking forward to fall again. Only 50 days until the first college football games. It was so strange last year watching games in empty stadiums. I see the Olympics won’t allow spectators this year. I hope we can get enough people vaccinated that we can open up all over the world again.

While covid hasn’t been as rough for me as most people, it has been quite lonely at times. Glad I can do my psych doctor appointments by teleconference. I haven’t been to a general practice doctor since the pandemic started. I managed to get vaccinated in early May. A home health service sent two nurses to my home, had me answer some questions, and gave me the Johnson & Johnson shot. I didn’t even have to leave my living room. So thankful such people and services are out there. Internet shopping has been a godsend for myself. I can’t imagine how much worse covid would be had this happened back in the early 1980s. As far as loneliness goes, if my grandparents’ generation had to fight a world war, the least I can do is stay home.

Still lifting weights three times a week. Noticing some of my strength starting to come back. I force myself to stand up at least once an hour. If I sit for too long my muscles get sore and I have issues walking and doing chores.

Haven’t read much for traditional books lately. I am watching the Dune mini series that came out in the early 2000s. I’m not normally much of a science fiction fan, but this series is done alright. A friend of mine has been talking up the Dune and Foundation series for years. I read the first Foundation book last summer via audiobook. I have grown to love audiobooks. My college roommate’s dad was a truck driver who used to listen to audiobooks when he was on the road. I can understand why he liked those so much.

Don’t have much planned for the next few weeks. Cruise Night (a rally for classic cars) will be in my town later this month. And one of the main routes run right by my home. Since I’m on the top floor of my complex, I get an amazing view and I don’t even have to brave the hot late July temperature or the large crowds. It should be a huge deal this summer as the country is opening back up. I’ll just watch out my window and have the American Graffiti soundtrack playing, like I do most years. For my Independence Day, I replayed the Revolutionary War on one of my computer games.

I think I’ve finally gotten over my coffee addiction. I’ve had only five cups in the last month. For the first several days I was sleeping more and kind of irritable. I was probably going through caffeine withdraw. I am back to more normal sleep. Most days I’m up for good by 6:30. I usually go to bed around 11pm. Was up until 3 am a few nights ago. Haven’t stayed up that late in months.

I’m doing well overall even if I stay close to home. I usually have visitors in my cleaning lady and a couple neighbors a couple times a week. My neighbor is kind enough to help me with chores like laundry and mail once a week as long as I provide laundry soap and change for the machines. I guess after years of helping out others, I need the help now.

Middle Summer

Been spending my Independence Day getting in touch with friends and family. I was lazier than usual in keeping tabs on friends for the last couple weeks. I usually don’t have much going on during the summers. Still reading a lot, even if it is mostly online articles these days. Watched some of the UEFA tournament over the last couple weeks. Most of those games started late morning here in the US. I don’t watch much for traditional tv anymore besides live sports events. I’m looking forward to the Olympics later this month. I have no doubt that Japan will be good hosts. My favorite events to watch are the sprints and long jump.

Found out my complex has a new permanent manager. I haven’t met her yet. I usually don’t interact with management much outside of my annual recertification, and that is usually in March or April. Hard to believe it’s been almost a year and a half since I got my flooring replaced and my walls repainted. The only complaint I have about having vinyl floors is they are very slippery when wet. When my cleaning lady mops, I make a point to not walk on the floor for at least two hours. I slipped and fell in my living room several weeks ago. Since I landed on my hands and knees, I didn’t hurt anything. Just had to catch my breath and stand back up.

July and August are usually rough times for me. I have a seasonal aspect to my mental illness. Haven’t had much for flare ups so far this year. I hope I can keep this up.

June 7 2021

It’s been a quiet and uneventful few days since I last wrote. Been sleeping more the last few days. I spent a couple days slightly sick, mostly stomach issues. I think I might have had a case of not properly cooking one of my meals or just caught a slight sickness from one of my neighbors or a delivery man. But I’m feeling normal now.

My birthday is next week. I’ll be 41 years old. Other than chronic leg and back pain that doesn’t allow me to stand more than a few minutes at a time, I’m enjoying my 40s. I do have a few gray hairs on my face. It’s one of the reasons I shave more often now after spending most of my 30s with beards. Being clean shaven and not having really short hair does make me look less threatening to my neighbors and friends.

Been lazy about weight lifting the last few weeks. I want to get back on top of that again. Weight lifting is probably my favorite exercise, especially since I can do it while I’m sitting down and watching tv. When I was in grade school, my parents used to help me with my weekly spelling tests during tv commercials on school nights. It was rapid fire as we tried to get through all the words on the weekly list within the 4 minutes of commercials. I guess I’ve always been doing some kind of physical or mental drill while watching tv. Yes, I lift weights while watching Star Trek reruns. Get both my jock and nerd fix at the same time.

That’s about all I have going on right now. The weather has gotten real hot after a cooler and damper than usual spring. It’s a good change up. I love the variety in seasons living in a place like Nebraska has to offer.

The Reality of Mental Illness

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression when I was 20 years old. I was covered under my parents’ insurance plan for psych meds. At the age of 25 I applied for social security disability insurance because I was no longer covered under my parents’ insurance and it was painfully obvious I couldn’t handle the anxiety of jobs available (i.e. retail and customer service jobs). My psych meds, without insurance, were $2,000 a month in 2006. To offset this, my parents bought a high risk health insurance policy for me that, to this day, they still refuse to tell me how much it cost them. I didn’t qualify for social security disability insurance until late 2008.

To avoid getting thrown out of the system, I couldn’t make more then $700 a month (after taxes) at any job. I had a janitorial job for a few years that I did well in because I wasn’t around people most of the time. After four years on the job, I finally did the math and figured out that for every one dollar I made in work, I lost 72 cents via increased rent (I live in low income housing), decreased benefits, and taxes. I finally gave up on the job because there was no incentive to keep working at what was effectively a 72 percent tax on a minimum wage job.

I am now 40 years old. Haven’t held a traditional job for eight years due to loss in benefits. I still need the psych meds every day or I would be homeless, in prison, or dead. We don’t even have long term mental health hospitals in large numbers anymore in the US. And if I want to save money in case of emergencies, I’d lose benefits if I ever had more than $3,000 in savings. This is all for a chronic mental illness that I didn’t bring upon myself. I was an honor student in high school who qualified for a $5,000 a year scholarship for college. I was studying to get into medical school. Lost most of my friends, most of my support group, any chance at a family, any shot at a career, etc. so I could keep the insurance for psych meds and treatments that would now, in 2021, cost $4,000 a month. And I receive zero dollars in food stamps. The support of my understanding and upper middle class family during the two plus years I was waiting for disability to get approved (which was faster than normal because we hired an attorney) is the only thing keeping from going bankrupt and homeless. So my case with severe mental illness is actually better than most people in the US. As it is I live on my own in low income housing in a small town in the Midwest and can live independently off my disability pension because I have no debt. Most people in my circumstances are far worse off.

Being Alone vs Being Lonely

I’ve spent most of my life alone. I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 and haven’t been on a date since 2006. It’s not that I don’t like having conversations or in person interaction. I have very rarely met people who share the same interests I do. I grew up in a small farming village of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska. The nearest Wal Mart was over an hour drive away as was the nearest four year college and book store. Most people I knew growing up thought I was odd in preferring to read science and nature books in grade school over playing sports. I never could run fast and was never coordinated enough to do well in sports like baseball or basketball. I didn’t have quick enough reflexes to be very good at most video games. My brother was a master at those. I always lost to him and I gave up trying to compete against him when I was ten years old.

Instead, I spent most of my free time either in the local library or wandering my back yard. While in my back yard, I made up stories and fantasy worlds. It came natural to me. Granted the neighbor kids thought it was funny and used to spy on me. Got me real paranoid after awhile. I didn’t have many friends growing up. I guess no one liked the smart kid who wasn’t afraid of being well read and smart. Even the adults thought I was strange for preferring to read to going to ballgames or county fairs.

It wasn’t until I was eleven that I met a friend who had many of the same interests and was just as much as an outsider as I was. His family moved in from a mountain town in Colorado. We hit it off right away. He and I were discussing politics and economics when most of our classmates were discussing school yard gossip, the latest video games, or the results of the college football games the previous weekend. He and I would sometimes spend our recess time discussing the presidental debates with our sixth grade teacher in 1992. Naturally our classmates thought we were weirdos.

I met my current best friend when I was thirteen. She and her sisters were homeschooled. First time in my entire life I met a kid who loved reading even more than I did. We hit it off immediately. Of course I got a lot of grief from classmates because my best friend was a girl. Half of the school thought I was gay and the other half thought we were all but married by freshman year of high school. Neither was true, she and I just shared similar interests. Most people don’t realize how few options I had for socializing for most of my life. Hell, I didn’t realize how limited my options were until facebook came out. Sadly, facebook turned into a toxic waste dump shortly after being opened to the public at large and big money got involved. Sad to see something so beautiful get so distorted.

Because my best friend in high school was a girl, that killed my chances for dating. Some people have the issues of not being able to get a second date or end up dating losers and jerks. My problem has always been getting anyone to say yes even once. I never did figure out what I was doing wrong. I flat out asked people what I was doing wrong. I never got any answer beyond ‘just be yourself’ and ‘there is someone for everyone.’ Right.

Even going off to college and being the only person from my school on campus didn’t improve my dating prospects. I asked one girl out and she laughed in my face. I had another girl in one class get all angry because she thought I was starring at her when I was really just starring at the clock. I did have a steady dating relationship my second year in college. Like most young romances, it didn’t last. We didn’t have enough similar interests. My last three years of college, I spent whatever time I wasn’t studying for classes in the library reading the classics of philosophy, history, literature, poetry, etc. Those books that serious literature students consider classics but never read, I read dozens of those in my spare time in college. Sure it killed any chance at dating, but I figured out that I wasn’t what most people were looking for anyway. It was no loss.

One I got out on my own, I struggled for a few years bouncing from job to job because of my worsening mental illness. I eventually wound up on disability. Worked a few years just to say I could. In 2012, I took early retirement from traditional work to devote my life to study and writing. At age 40, I’m far happier with this arrangement than with any I’ve ever had. I don’t get spied on by my neighbors like the kids in my hometown did. No one gives me a hard time for not wanting to date anymore. No one insults me because I love to learn. Sure it gets lonely at times, but that is what happens when someone has rare interests and lives in an environment where aren’t many people. Could I have done better socially if I grew up in a suburban setting? I don’t know. I’ll never know at this point. But it does get lonely. Some days I feel like a medieval monk with a great book collection but no one to share that knowledge with.

Thought on Marriage, Social Relationships, and Life’s Callings

I love being 40 years old. I enjoy that I no longer feel pressure to get married or have kids. I never could stand going to family gatherings and my old high school for home football games and have people asking me when I was going to start a family. People think I’m a liar for saying this, but I decided I wasn’t getting married when I was 18 and a senior in high school. For one, I saw that most married people I knew argued and fought all the time and about the pettiest crap. I still remember when I was 16 and my parents started arguing at the dinner table and I had just had it. I had a rough day at school already and I had a few hours worth of homework ahead of me that night already. I got up to just walk away, and they both shouted at me to sit down. Then they just went back to their argument like I wasn’t there. Sometimes when they argued, I’d yell at both of them just because I had enough. And my family was mild compared to most of my friends and extended family. Two of my high school friends and three sets of my cousins parents’ went through divorces in my youth. Seeing that scared me real bad. And I always heard this crap about how “you just gotta pick the right girl” or “love is all you need” or “love is forever” or “there is someone for everyone.” But I knew even in my teens I hated drama and fighting. I’d often hear that fighting makes relationships stronger and then I’d get punished for hitting my older brother or the neighbor kids. I always got mixed messages like that. I still do, though more through social media than my immediate family and friends. I love that I am no longer pressured to get married or have kids. It’s a pity almost no one respected my desire to stay unmarried twenty years ago.

I love that I can cut toxic people out of my life and not feel guilty at all about it. I may have fewer friends at age 40 than I did at age 22, but all of the friends I have are amazing. My best friend from college and I have never had a shouting match. Sure we’ve been irritated with each other many times but have never shouted at each other or ghosted each other. I’ve cut lots of people out of my life after we changed as people and after I figured out we weren’t good for each other. I’ve had to cut people out of my life that had been friends for years because we no longer shared the same values. I’ve even cut out family members. I find few things as irritating as going to family gatherings and hearing that one older relative rant on and on about the “damn kids” or that second cousin go on about politics or how much of an idiot his boss is. I don’t put up with toxic and rude people anymore. I would rather spend the rest of my life alone and in my apartment than socialize with toxic people. Anymore, most people I know are toxic. I refuse to put up with it. I don’t have to at this point in my life. And I don’t feel a shred of guilt for not socializing with people like that.

I love that I can do pretty much what I want for money, at least as long as I’m not breaking any laws. When I was a kid I was constantly asked what I wanted to do for a living. Originally I wanted to go into science research. I wasn’t really concerned with making lots of money. I enjoy what money can do as much as anyone, but it isn’t the primary focus of my existence. Another truth about me that most people think is a lie is that I decided I wanted to go to college when I was eight years old. The idea of being around well read people and getting to study things I wanted to sounded like winning the lottery in my eight year old mind. I always loved learning and reading. I didn’t have to be forced to read. Hell, I had to be forced to socialize with classmates. Mom and Dad were scared I’d never develop social skills if I just read books and made up stories in my back yard all day every day. Yet I still had a good social life in college, far better than what I had in grade school and high school. I’ve been accused of being anti social my entire life, but especially when I was a kid. The thing is I can talk with others all night about things like history, philosophy, economics, literature, science, and tech. But I can’t stand to talk about things like politics, the weather, sports, gossip, and school rumors. These things don’t interest me. Never have. Yet I was condemned for being anti social for not enjoying things like ballgames, county fairs, watching cable news, discussing politics, or the weather. I’ve never been anti social, I just have different interests than most people I’ve ever known. I’m thankful that the internet allows me to connect with people who have similar interests. I have more in common with people from my tech and futurist groups that I will never meet than I do my neighbors and most of my family. The internet is a godsend for the black sheep and small town eccentrics. It’s a pity I don’t have a couple hard core scholars or retired engineers living near me. In short, I love being a free lance independent scholar. Sure I will never get rich off my knowledge. Yet as long as I can pay my rent on time, keep food in the pantry, clothes in my wardrobe, keep my daily medications current, and keep the internet paid up, I don’t need much else. While I’m not convinced on the idea of previous lives or reincarnation, maybe I would have been wise to become a monk had I lived in medieval England. Maybe I could have been cured of mental illness and gone on to write parts of the Encyopedia Galatica if I lived in Asimov’s Foundation universe thousands of years in the future. I’ll never know. Being a scholar is like crime: It doesn’t pay and can land you in prison if you’re not careful. But, damn, I don’t know any other way to live my life.

Has Spring Sprung?

It is the first day of April as I write this. The trees outside my window are starting to bud and I see pigeons every day. Baseball season starts today and I joined a fantasy league with a few old college friends like I do every spring.

Spent the morning in my complex’s library a couple days ago. Caught up with a few neighbors I hadn’t seen during the winter. I’m still a little paranoid about venturing out even though millions of people are already vaccinated. I read a lot to pass the time. Still do audiobooks a couple hours a day in addition to traditional paper books. Bought groceries this morning. So I’m set for several days.

Still sleeping a lot. I usually go to bed around 10pm, wake up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom, and then usually get up for good shortly after 6am. I sometimes nap in the early afternoons. The best time for me to host visitors is usually late mornings or the noon hour.

I don’t have plans for Easter, at least not yet. Probably going to call family and friends after church services. I might be more into it if I were near my nephews and niece or my cousins’ kids. My aunt usually hosts Easter dinner and all my cousins’ bring their families. It was cancelled last year due to covid and I don’t know the plans for this year. I’ll probably do zoom calls to my parents and brother’s kids.

Saw my parents a couple weeks ago. First time I got to see them since Christmas. My parents said they are proud of how I have handled the pandemic, being essentially on my own for a year while handling a mental illness. Other than a couple breakdowns, I think I’ve done alright. Sure I don’t socialize much, at least not in person. But I’ve always been an introvert who appreciated alone time and people in small doses. A few people in my complex had the covid already. Two friends of mine have had it. Three of my cousins had it. A lady who had sold some acreage land to my parents years ago died from it. I’ve heard that Germany and France are back on lockdowns again. Vaccines are still going out hard and heavy here in the US. Cases are starting to increase again here in the US after weeks of decline. I was afraid cases would increase once the weather started warming and people went out in large crowds more.

Looks like winter has ended. I wouldn’t be surprised if we do get another snow storm or two. But they won’t last long now. I think spring has sprung.

Push For Spring

Weather has finally warmed up after a couple weeks of the most frigid cold I have experienced since childhood. I never lost power or water. A friend of mine in Omaha said they had rolling black outs but she was without power for only a couple hours.

I weathered the worst of winter pretty well. Even though I don’t leave my apartment every day, I still keep in contact with friends and family. My neighbor and I drop in on each other a few times a week to check in on each other. I did sleep a lot this winter but haven’t had any truly serious problems. Still get groceries delivered a few times a month.

Mentally I’m stable. At least as stable as I can be during a pandemic. I’ve had a few breakdowns over the last year. But they were short lived and didn’t require meds changes or going the the hospital. It sometimes gets lonely, to be sure. I’m glad I love to read and can keep myself occupied that way. While I’m not currently on any major reading projects, I usually spend a couple hours a day reading online articles. Most of them are science, tech, and business related. I try to avoid most things about politics. Too divisive and stressful for my tastes.

As far as computer games go, I’ve dusted a few of my older games off and been messing with those lately. I’ve gotten into Medieval Total War and the Railroad Tycoon series the last couple weeks. Sometimes I’ll do PlayStation Madden NFL or FIFA Soccer for a change up. I can’t really get into first person shooter games much. They just don’t hold my interest quite like Civilization or the Total War series.

Still doing lots of cooking. My cleaning lady told me she can tell a good cook by how messy the kitchen is after a meal. I still don’t eat fast food very often. Actually haven’t had any fast food since before Christmas. Most fast food upsets my stomach and makes me feel sluggish any more. But I do make lots of soups and pasta dishes. I do grilling on the Foreman grill too. Don’t do any baking or desserts though. I haven’t tried my hand at baking sourdough bread yet.

Been watching small college football on the weekends. It seems weird to be watching football in February. But then the last year has been anything but typical. I renewed my ESPN Plus subscription so I can catch some of these games. And baseball spring training has been going for almost a couple weeks now. I don’t usually feel like winter is ending until I’ve seen a preseason baseball game or two.

My parents have now had both rounds of the covid vaccine. They’re getting out and about more often. They pick up the grandkids from school usually a couple times per week and do in person shopping and church. And I heard that a third vaccine has been approved here in the US just a couple days ago. Maybe we are starting to see the end of the line for this pandemic. I probably will get my vaccine sometime this summer. Not being a senior citizen or essential worker means I’m pretty low priority. But I’ve avoided getting sick for a year now. A few more months is manageable.

December 5 2020

I’m probably spending Christmas 2020 by myself this year. I think it’s still too risky for my elderly parents to travel several hundred miles during a pandemic. I see vaccine distributions will start right before Christmas here in the USA. I read that England approved theirs a few days ago. I’ll probably get mine in the spring. Meanwhile I’ll probably spend winter close to my home, wear masks when I have guests, and spend my days reading and working on computers.

Bought some groceries yesterday. Talk to my neighbors for a few minutes every day. One of my neighbors, whom is still very mobile, often picks up mail and packages for the less mobile residents of my complex. I gave him several facemasks as he’s often on the go.

I’m starting to sleep less again. I’m up late most nights. But haven’t felt any ill side effects yet. Started lifting weights a week ago. I haven’t had problems with paranoia for weeks. I also don’t notice people walking and talking in the hallways as much lately.