Living With Very Few Regrets While Mentally Ill

 

I have my birthday coming up in a few days.  My birthday doesn’t mean as much to me anymore as it did when I was in my youth and early adulthood.  I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m not going to get younger or stronger as I age.  I accept that things on my body are going to start wearing out.  I’ve even accepted that I may become forgetful and not have as rapid mental recall as I did in my younger years.  But this mental illness has become easier to manage than it was even five years ago.  Even my current problems aren’t overbearing like they were years ago.  Now they are irritable occurences that I just deal with until they pass by.  I really think my mental illness is easier to deal with now in my late 30s than it was when I was in the prime of my health.

I don’t worry about getting older.  I actually welcome it.  I’m not really that nostalgic about the past and I really don’t have that many regrets about my past.  I avoided all the major mistakes and learned from the minor ones.  I’m not tied down as much as many people I know.  I know people from my classes in high school and college who have gone through divorces, stuck in dead end jobs, paying off massive debts, in unhappy marriages, have addiction problems, and generally not having a very good time in their thirties.  My only true problem is I can stand to lose about 100 pounds.  I’ve already lost at least 25 pounds since New Year’s.  All I really did was give up fast food, give up most sugar, give up most bread, and drink only water and coffee.  Even my chronic back pain is gone.  I do occasionally allow myself thin crust pizza, but I go heavy on vegetable toppings when I do.

As cool as my college years were, in spite of the schizophrenia, in some ways my late 30s are even more amazing.  I stay in contact with my college friends via facebook and instagram.  I have all the music I spent a small fortune on in my teens and twenties for free on youtube and spotify.  And I even listen to some of the newer material that comes out too, not just what I grew up with.  When I was a teenager I promised myself that regardless of how my life or career turned out, I would never allow myself to become a bitter old man.  That’s why I don’t complain about the “lousy kids” or pine for the “good old days.”  I do have a few regrets, but the big one (not having much of a relationship with my brother), even that can be reversed once he and I start to put the effort into it.  We may not talk much, but that isn’t because we hate each other.  We just have totally different lives and day to day experiences.

I may not have dated many women, but I did have some roller coaster ride romances I don’t regret.  I asked out all the women I had crushes on in my life, got turned down by most of them, but I’m not wondering ‘what if’ about the one I let get away.  Just because I asked was a victory in some regards.  I’m glad for the dates I had, even the really lousy ones.  I don’t regret being stood up by women, or being rejected, or watching one woman I liked date one of my close friends.  And I don’t regret being unmarried at this point in my life.  I definately don’t regret not paying alimony or child support.  If, at some point down the road, I do meet my forever instead of my usual until whenever types, I’ll consider it an added bonus.  But I am not worried about being an old man and alone. By the time I get to be an old man, I may have a robotic assistant that does everything that a professional care giver would anyway.  I’ve lived 38 years at this point and experienced some cool things.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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There Really Is More to Life than Just Working and Money

Been feeling quite lonely for the last few days.  I’m actually craving attention from other people, especially from people with similar interests and in my age bracket.  Haven’t heard from any of my old high school or college friends in weeks.  Seems like many of my friends got busy with family and careers and forgot about their old friends.  As far as I can tell, I am one of the only single friends in my circle of friends.  Some of my friends have even gone through divorces by now.  I almost never hear from my brother.  But he has four kids and a serious career, so I guess we have nothing in common.  And to make things even worse, we weren’t close at all growing up.  We were just completely different people with nothing in common except that we had the same parents.  Not having a relationship with my brother is one of the few true regrets I have about my current life that I could have done different.

Having a serious mental illness taught me that there is more to life than having a career.  Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize this until they are retired and most of their life is behind them.  This is probably why so many people feel depressed and useless once their careers are over, especially older men.  Like most boys, I was constantly asked what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I usually answered something in the sciences.  But the mental illness came creeping in just right before I could cash in on my brains and use them in a career.  Thank God I found a small niche online as a mental health blogger/philosopher.  I don’t even want to think what would have happened had I been born in my grandparents’ generation and not had this outlet.  It also makes me wonder how many mentally ill geniuses were lost over the centuries because they had no outlets to use their smarts.

I wanted to be a scientist when I was a child.  As it turned out I became a writer with interests in science.  I developed lots of interests and hobbies over the years, but never became profecient enough to turn these interests into careers.  For awhile as a child I flew model airplanes with my dad.  I did quite a bit of fishing and survival training when I was in Boy Scouts.  I made model cars for awhile.  I collected coins and baseball cards for a few years.  Still have all of  my baseball cards from my youth.  I taught myself some basic computer coding.  That probably could have turned into a job, at least until computers can regularly code themselves.  Who knows, maybe in the future the majority of people won’t have regular jobs simply because machines and programs can do them better and make many things cheaper.

While I wouldn’t mind a future like this, I do understand why some people are apprehensive about what could be coming in the next couple decades.  For generations, people have identified with the work they did to live.  Everybody was interested in work and a person who didn’t need or want a regular job was an outcast.  I have been an outcast in this regard for the last several years in that I don’t have a regular job, and really don’t need one as I can live just on my disability pension.  I no longer feel the need for a lot of money.  What I want at this point is to do work that makes a difference to people, the kind of work that “puts a dent in the universe” as the late Steve Jobs used to say.

While I am not delusional enough to believe I’m sure to get famous just from blogging, I do want to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who happen to read these postings.  I suppose that since my basic needs are met by my disability pension, I can now move onto meaningful work and self actualization on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Self actualized and I make poverty level (for American standard) salary, only in the early 21st century.  The closet I can think that anyone else in history was to this while living at low wages is probably medieval monks and scholars.  No need to be entertained with lots of money when my own mind can keep me company.

I Want To Shake Things Up and Get More Active Again

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My back has healed up.  I’m back to essentially a more normal routine.  Because of the colder weather and being housebound for two weeks, I got to do some thinking about changing things in my life.  I have essentially been in a rut for the last couple years where it’s pretty much the same old every day, day in and day out.  I haven’t done any real traveling for almost three years, spending much of my time self educating via youtube and Khan Academy and reading books.  I gained back the weight I lost within two years of my car accident back in 2015.  Now I’m getting more serious about my health again.  I don’t eat fast food anymore.  I’m starting to get out of my apartment more and walk a little every day.  I do arm weights three times a week.  And about the only things I drink anymore are water and coffee.  I feel like I’m beginning to see some results.  I started this new routine shortly after New Year’s.  Because my back slowed me down for two weeks, I just cut back on what I ate.  I’m to where I now eat meat only once a day, usually for breakfast.  The rest of the meals I eat things like spinach leaf salads, soups, peanut butter, and meatless pasta.  I think my routines are starting to work.  I feel like I have more energy.  I feel more mobile.  I’m starting to have fewer aches and pains.  And I am sleeping better too.

I’m also thinking that after I have lost some weight, I’m going to have to get out and about more.  I am in desperate need of shaking up my routines and adding more spice to my life.  A few years ago I said that I would like to do some traveling eventually.  I still have my savings that I built up a few years ago.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to see my old college friends again.  I don’t have a definite time line set just yet as this is still in the dreaming before making plans phase.  I have always wanted to get my passport and travel through Europe and see places like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, London, etc.  Part of me would, if I get back to the same weight I was in college, love to travel on some of the old Silk Road from eastern Europe to China or vice versa.  When I was in high school I spent a couple weeks in Mexico with my Spanish class.  It was the most enjoyable vacation I had in my entire life.  Now that I am an adult, debt free, committed to getting back into good physical health, and have a little bit of a savings, I’m going to have to do this traveling before I get too old to enjoy it.  Since I am single, have a safety net in my disability pension, and I can do my blog from anywhere that has WiFi internet, I’m starting to hear the faint beckoning call of the open road again.

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I did a little traveling every year.  My senior year of college, my parents and I went to San Antonio for Christmas.  I got to see The Riverwalk lit up for Christmas, visited the Alamo, got to see one of the Air Force bases my dad was stationed at during the Vietnam War, and got to see my Nebraska Huskers play a post season bowl game.  And an old college friend and I used to go to Denver to see Colorado Rockies baseball games, one of those games being a World Series game.  Spent all winter paying off the cost of that quick weekend trip, and even though the Rockies lost the Series, it was worth the trip.  I visited an old college friend in Minnesota for a week several summers ago.  I was amazed at how beautiful Minnesota is (I wouldn’t care to fight their winters). My friends and I used to go to minor league baseball games every summer.  We were able to get front row seats, a couple hot dogs, and a couple soda pops for less than $25 a person.  Just thinking about these old times while I was house bound for the last two weeks got me to realize just how much I missed travel and seeing different places.

I know that before I can fulfill these dreams of traveling, I have to lose some weight.  I have done it before.  And by God I can do it again.  I know it’s going to take at least a few years before I can get to doing the travel overseas like I dream of doing.  But I have pretty much gotten to where I have played all the computer games and done most of the self study I care to do.  I took a couple years doing that and I have gotten it out of my system.  Now it is time for a different chapter in my life.  It’s time to lose some weight and prepare to hit the road again.

Late January and Winter Routine

I weathered yet another snow storm this winter.  Fortunately this one is starting to melt off already after only a couple days.  If I wait long enough, maybe I won’t have to shovel the snow off my car 🙂  Been staying close to home and generally getting less than I would like accomplished.  If I haven’t written as much the last month it’s only because I have less to report than usual.  We’ve had a couple new people move into our complex.  So far they seem to be working out.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown since before Christmas and I haven’t had house guests since our family’s Christmas party.

My back seems to be doing better.  I can walk further distances but not as far as I would like.  I’m still lifting arm weights to make up the difference.  I’ve been sleeping more.  I am convinced this is due to cutting out caffeine for the last few days.  I haven’t gotten jittery and irritable from withdraw, at least not yet.  I’m probably going to get out and buy some coffee within the next day or two once all the ice is melted.  We’ve had snow cover for over a month now.  And usually here in Nebraska winters are bitterly cold but dry.

One month of winter has come and gone.  And I really don’t feel like I got much accomplished from all of my indoor time.  I do go see my psych doctor early in February. I guess I really don’t have much to report to him besides being more or less stable though a little paranoid around people.  But even that paranoia has been lessening within the last few days.  I don’t foresee any medication changes coming in the near future.

It’s been a quiet and uneventful winter for me so far.  But I am beginning to look forward to spring.  Just another two months to go.

Returning to Normal Routines

After several days of colder than average weather, it finally warmed up a little today.  At least it warmed enough for me to run some errands.  It feels good to be able to leave my apartment again without worrying about frostbite.  I had spent several days staying at home, watching college football, playing computer games, but doing little of anything else.  I need to get back into some regular routines.  To that end I started lifting weights again today.  I had been lazy about lifting this summer and fall.  I had been quite lazy about exercise ever since I hurt my back.  Sadly I gained back the weight I had lost a few years ago.  I’m starting over in this regard.  I know I can lose the weight again, it’s just a matter of doing so.

Still not sleeping as much as I used to.  Which is alright with me as I used to sleep twelve hours a day during the summer.  Now I’m getting like six hours a sleep every night.  Yet I still feel quite rested.  And I usually try to take an hour nap in the afternoon.  Even with my reduced sleep, I rarely stay up all night now.  Used to be I stayed up all night three nights per week and then sleep in the mornings.  My sleep is returning to more normal patterns.

Been spending a little more time on social media the last few days, mainly to find out about people’s holidays’ plans.  I don’t know if I’ll be back on facebook and twitter more from now on.  It seems to me that many of my friends have just gotten burnt out on all the drama and fighting that has been so prevalent for the last few years.  I wound up unfollowing many people because of the drama, including family members.  So much for making people more connected.  I think the older I get, the less use I have for drama and nonsense and the more uses I have for logic and intelligence.

Now that the weather is starting to break out of the cold spell and the holidays are over, I am at a crossroads.  I realize I now have more freedom than I used to.  During the holidays I avoid the stores because of the crowds and loud Christmas music and too bright displays.  I’m also at a loss now that I won’t have much going on until spring.  January through April has always been a slow but stable time of year for me.  Mentally I am usually my most stable during the winters.  And I usually get a lot of reading and writing done during the colder parts of year.  I admit I love to read for my own enlightenment more than I do my entertainment.  I consider learning entertainment.  I know I am weird in that regard.  But learning new things gives me joy, I don’t care if being an intellectual makes me a social outcast.

Since the holidays are now over, I can get back to some resemblance of normal routines. I plan on doing many audiobooks on youtube this winter.  I’m thinking about using my Khan Academy account to learn some subjects I wish I had taken when in school.  And I plan on doing more outside my apartment so I can have more material to write about.  Overall I plan on making 2018 an excellent year.

Lack of Activity in Winter with A Mental Illness

With the really cold weather I have had for the last several days, I rarely left my apartment between Christmas and New Year’s.  I started my car a few times and shoveled out the snow so I can now get out if necessary.  I’m going to have to get out within the next few days as I am running low on supplies and groceries.  Being shut up inside has made me a little restless and bored.  But it’s supposed to start warming up within a day or two.  Maybe I can get out more often now.  But it has been a lonely and tedious several days just staying home, watching football, and playing computer games.  I hope to have a new routine started soon.

Haven’t gotten to talk to anyone besides my parents and a couple close friends since Christmas.  I haven’t been on facebook much the last few months.  Seems to me even my friends are starting to avoid social media.  So much for reconnecting people.  It has been kind of a lonely go the last several days.  I did host Christmas but haven’t had guests since.

Even though mentally I have been stable for months, I don’t have much for enthusiasm in anything anymore.  I used to be able to spend hours on end reading online articles or wikipedia in addition to educational programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  I haven’t found much joy in these activities for a few weeks now.  Not sure what the issues are.  For all I know the reduction in doses of some of my psych meds could be the culprit.  I may not have the ups and downs, but I am also losing many of my interests.  I have also become quite lazy now, I’m embarrassed to admit.  I imagine it’s just a matter of readjusting and adapting in order to get my old interests back.  At least I haven’t lost my interests in writing.  I may not post as often as I used to but that is because I have less to report.  Most of this is from lack of flare ups and a lack of socializing.

Fortunately socializing doesn’t make me annoyed anymore.  Now I have the problem of being scared to socialize. I guess the hostility is being edged out by the old paranoia issues.  I am scared to socialize in most instances anymore besides with close friends and family members.  I am not as afraid to drive my car anymore.  I just don’t want to anymore.  Driving just seems kind of pointless anymore.  I haven’t really had much reason to laugh much lately.  I just don’t make a point to watch comedy shows as much as I should.  I just don’t make a point to watch much of anything anymore.  Been a few weeks since I watched anything on netflix and I haven’t done an audiobook for almost a month.  If it wasn’t for football for the last two weeks I wouldn’t have watched much of anything this winter.  And since I need less sleep than I used to, the days and nights seem to stretch out forever.  I hope the rest of winter isn’t this long or bleak.  I hope it warms up a little soon.  I’ve about hit my breaking point with having to stay inside all day because of the snow and cold.

End of 2017

Well, our civilization survived another trip around the mother star.  It was an interesting year to say the least, at least news wise.  For me, it was kind of a quiet year.  Other than one breakdown in the early fall, I have been very stable.  After twenty years of working with schizophrenia, some of the things I have to do to keep stable have become routine.  I have to be more careful than most people about who I associate with and what conversations I take part in.  I have been fortunate to have not had psychotic breakdowns in public.  I’m scared that if I ever did, I’d at very least end up in jail.  So I find myself isolating for much of the time.  It has to be a special occasion before I have guests in my apartment and even then it has to be a small and informal gathering.  Otherwise I couldn’t handle it.

It’s been very cold for the last week and a half.  I haven’t gone out much during this span.  So I have been content to stay home, watch some football, play some computer games, etc.  I have no plans for New Year’s Eve as it’s going to be too cold to go anywhere.  I am starting to get a little tired of always staying home because of the weather.  But it’s supposed to warm up some by the end of this week.

One problem I have faced the last several days is a lack of enthusiasm for much of anything.  It’s not that I am bored, it’s that I really don’t want to do much of anything.  I also now have the problem of not needing much sleep.  I’ve needed only five to six hours of sleep a day for the last two weeks.  I usually sleep from one a.m. to seven a.m. anymore.  But I have been stable enough for the last several months I’ve had some of my medications’ doses reduced.  Maybe that is why I don’t need as much sleep.  But I still can’t explain my lack of enthusiasm or lack of engagement.  I’m feeling unenthusiastic enough that I’m not doing a science and tech year in review post this year.  Besides, it isn’t like I got much of a response from those posts anyway.

I’m ending 2017 alone in my apartment simply because of the weather.  I just don’t want to go anywhere when it’s this cold.  It’s a good day to stay home and stay under the blankets with a cup of hot coffee.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

Thankfulness Despite Mental Illness

I’ve spent almost twenty years dealing with mental illness problems.  Even though I have now spent more than half my life dealing with these problems, I am still pretty happy and content with how my life turned out.  Sure I would be better off losing some weight or having more friends in my hometown, but overall I’m enjoying my life even though I have to deal with schizophrenia.  At least I enjoy it the 99 percent of the time that I’m not having problems with hallucinations, delusions, and excessive anxiety.  I think the older I have gotten, the more I have learned how to work around the illness.  I do have to avoid stressful people and situations.  I have to do most of my shopping either online or in early morning hours to avoid crowds.  I won’t have the high paying and prestigious career like my brother has.  I will never have a wife and kids or the big house in a good suburb.  But as I have aged and seen in my own self and others with mental illness, I could be a lot worse.  If I was born in 1920 instead of 1980, I probably would have been living permanently in a mental hospital or homeless.  That is why I am thankful that medications and social safety nets exist that didn’t exist even fifty years ago.  Some of the medications I’m on didn’t exist even ten years ago.

Even though I don’t have a lot of nearby friends and don’t make much money, I’m still pretty happy overall.  I have been able to pursue what makes me happy and content despite being on disability insurance and living in low income housing.  Happiness for me is talking with friends over the phone, or participating in the futurist groups I’m part of on Facebook, or just grilling cheap steaks and watching college football on chilly fall afternoons.  I am fortunate that I have simple tastes.  Even though both my parents were medical professionals and made good money, they didn’t spoil my brother and I.  We were expected to either have after school and summer jobs or be involved in school activities year round.  I wasn’t uncommon for me to play a football game on Friday nights and spend my Saturday afternoons working as a shelf stocker at a general store when I was in high school.  During the summers, my brother usually reported to work at a fast food place every morning by 4 am to provide spending money so he could get his engineering degree.  I didn’t understand why my parents expected so much out of us when we were growing, but now I do.  And I’m glad for it.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  If I were able to raise children, I would be the same way.

If anything, I am thankful for what I have even if it isn’t what it could have been.  I’m glad that I can write about my experiences.  I write for those who can’t speak for themselves and to let others with mental illness know that they are not alone and things can get better.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of time but things can become quite stable even with a mental illness.

Lonely Weekends

I’m spending yet another weekend at home alone.  As far as I’m concerned, the weekends are the loneliness times for me.  When I was in college, the campus garage bands would put on concerts I’d go to every weekend.  A couple of those bands were pretty good.  Too bad youtube didn’t exist in those days.  They might have been discovered, like Justin Bieber.  When I moved to my current town, I would spend time with my cousin and her friends.  Sometimes we’d go to concerts.  Sometimes we’d have cookouts.  Sometimes we’d just chat or watch rented movies.  But after my cousin moved away, the group started to fall apart.  Eventually all of my local friends got married and moved away.

After that happened, I made a few elderly friends in my apartment complex.  I had good conversations with them.  They gave me a reason to leave my apartment several times a day.  Once they died, I was down to having no friends I could just have a cup of coffee with.  It didn’t help that many of the new people moving into my complex were kind of mean and temperamental people.

Once this started to happen, I just isolated.  And I started my current computer game addiction.  It helps pass the time and is kind of a brain builder, but it has done a toll on my social life.  I just can’t socialize with negative and rude people everyday.  That’s why I will never work in retail again.  And weekends are the worst because I used to do a great deal with friends on weekends.  When I wasn’t going to garage concerts on the weekends in college, I’d be having marathon trivia game sessions with my friends.  Those were fun times.  Too bad they didn’t last.  It has been a lonely stretch the last few years.  But the weekends are the worst.