I Am Mentally Ill But More Optimist Than Most Normal People

Even though I’ve been house bound because of the recent cold and snow for the last few days, I’ve been in a pretty decent mood.  Too bad it seems like no one else I interact with is.  I have been dealing with people in foul and bitter moods in most my personal interactions lately.  I have, for the last several years, made it a point to find out what is going well in the world.  And I try to tell my friends, neighbors, and family what is actually going well.  Of course my words fall on deaf ears most of the time.  I am more often than not greeted with dead silence, as if I didn’t say anything.  I would rather people tell me how much of a liar I am then be ignored or met with indifference.  I swear to God that most people not only find meaning in their misery, they are actually proud of being angry and miserable.  And it is wearing on me.  It is wearing on me so much that I more or less avoid socializing as much as possible anymore.  What is the point of opening up to people if they are just going to try to drag you and everything else down?

I am not anti social, believe it or not.  And it’s especially painful for me when I try to socialize and I hear nothing but doom, gloom, that humanity is getting dumber with each passing day, the “damn kids” are going to be the death of us all, ad nauseam.  I don’t want to hear it anymore.  I really don’t.  Take that gutter tripe to someone else.  I for one know the world isn’t heading to hell in a hand basket, no matter how bad my neighbors and family want it to.  I have this terrible habit of trying to think for myself and do my own research.  I actually challenge what I hear and even believe. Of course this doesn’t make me popular at all.  But if I have to be shallow, stupid, trendy, and doing what everyone else around me is to be popular, then I want nothing to do with popularity.  I don’t even want to socialize with such people.  I’d rather spend my days alone and interacting through digital means than be forced to listen to panicked and uninformed people gripe and moan all the time.  I want to socialize, but when I do I face primarily irritable and rude people.  No thanks, I’ll just keep to myself while you take your petty grievances and proud to be victim mentality to someone else.

I’ve dealt with pessimists and worriers my entire life.  And I used to be one of these pessimists and worriers.  But once I got out on my own and away from most of the people I knew growing up, I found out that things are actually improving all over.  I certainly didn’t know it from the monopoly on outside information my elders had over me as a child.  Once I ventured out on my own into that “cold cruel world” my elders told me was going to kick my butt every day until I died, I found out that most problems are more manageable and solvable than people realize.  They just got to stop griping and moaning long enough to come up with possible solutions and keep acting until one works.  I not only found the world wasn’t the horrible hellish nightmare my elders and teachers told me it was, but some pretty cool stuff and people are out there.  Too bad the negative gets far more attention than the good.  Once I figured out that civilization was not the kill or be killed jungle people told me it was, I became very angry with my teachers, elders, and even my family for having misled and even outright lied to me my entire youth.

And now I see people my age as parents who gripe about how bad the kids are today when not even twenty years ago, their elders were saying the same tripe about them.  Are people so forgetful and stupid they don’t learn from their past?  I swear for ours being the species that had enough empathy to build the trust in each other to move out of the caves and build a pretty cool civilization that is now on the door step to the stars (we need but open the door and walk in), we certainly despise the less experienced members of our species who are also in their prime physical and breeding years.  Why is that?  Are we fearful of our own mortality that much?  Are we fearful of the fact that someday the world will carry on as if you and I never existed?  Are we fearful of the truth that we are not the center of existence like we too often think we are?  We are dust in the wind, dude to quote Keanu Reeves from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

I am told that socializing is good for my mental health problems.  Is it really when most people I meet are in lousy moods with little hope?  I don’t think so.  I am also told to avoid negative and rude people.  I do that, but most people I meet anymore are negative and rude.  I’ll just stay home and not interact in public for now.  Too many people trying to kill my hope and vibe.  I won’t let that happen.  Just because the people I am around are irritable and worried, I won’t be.  I spent most of my youth being worried and angry because of being misinformed by people I had no choice but to trust.  I was sad and often hopeless as a child.  Now that I’m a grown man, I refuse to go through that again.  I don’t care how irritable and pessimist everyone else is around me.  I refuse to partake.  And if that means living the life of a hermit, so be it.

How I Gave Up Watching The News And Became A Blogger

My parents are 24 hour news junkies.  Have been ever since we got our first cable tv subscription back in the late 1980s.  Memories of my pre teen years involve seeing the Berlin Wall come down, the First Gulf War updates every evening, and the fall of the Soviet Union.  It didn’t become apparent how ridiculous the idea of paying attention to every little thing that came across CNN (or Constantly Negative News as I think of it now) until the O.J. Simpson trial and the President Clinton impeachment hearings during my teen years.  I saw grown adults give up their lunch hours and heard teachers spend entire class periods rehashing everything that was covered in these news programs.  I paid more attention to the Columbine shootings in April 1999 because the killers were my age and I had friends who were as much outcasts as those guys.  But even that was depressing as it wasn’t like my elders already thought kids and young adults were worthless and bad news.

I finally started to free myself of the drug of 24 hour news in the months after 9/11.  I just got tired of seeing the death and devastation replayed all the time.  I was only starting my mental illness treatment at the time, so I was still mentally fragile in the first place.  To replace my usual news watching, I started reading.  I read many of the classics of literature, some philosophy, much history, quite a bit of economics, and many of the greats of poetry.  I didn’t believe in reading summaries or commentaries because I figured I could understand the masters just fine by myself.  I came to believe that some of the ‘experts’ of academia and culture were often way off when I saw a speaker on C-Span and I could have refuted many of his arguments.  I thought to myself ‘I know as much as this guy speaking and he has an audience.’  Shortly afterward I started putting my thoughts into writing.  This was in 2003 to 2004, so right before blogging and youtube really took off.

After a couple years of writing poems and journals, I sat out to write a novel.  It was loosely based on my experiences at a Christian college and some of the people I knew during those years.  I wrote a novel (and thus crossed off one of the items on my ‘bucket list’).  It was during this time I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about how many of the myths of mental illness are not true.  I was published as a guest columnist and got some positive response to that essay.  After that I wrote a series of essays concerning my life with a mental illness.  I decided to self publish these and actually sold a few dozen copies.  I self published my novel and some poetry too.  My novel wasn’t very good and neither was the second novel I wrote.  Now I know I can’t do good fiction.  Which is reasonable as I really don’t like reading fiction.  That’s why I concentrate on blogging now.

With the fact I spend much of my time online researching for this blog (and to satisfy my mental curiosity), I do pick up on a lot of what goes on in the world.  Needless to say I pick up on lots of negative news as a byproduct of researching.  But, unlike my parents and most of my friends, I do not agonize over the news.  Case in point, the upcoming elections here in the United States.  There isn’t anything I can’t learn about any of the candidates or major issues I couldn’t learn in a few hours of intense internet research.  I do not need to hear everything said at every speech and rally for a year and a half.  All of that is window dressing and background noise.  I do not need to know every detail about every mass shooting and terrorist attack.  If all I did was listen to bad news, I would have given up hope a long time ago.  Your odds of dying from the flu, or a workplace accident, or heart disease are much higher than dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash.

I know humans are naturally drawn to bad news because it was a good survival strategy when we were still living in caves during the Ice Ages.  If you missed bad news then, you wound up eaten by a saber tooth cat and you were out of the gene pool. Those old habits are tough to break.  Our species grew up when most of what effecting us was within a day’s walk.  If there was an earthquake or volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, you never knew it.  Now we know every calamity that happens anywhere within moments.  And we respond to it like our caveman ancestors responding to an immediate threat.  That is probably the major source of our present day anxiety.

I try to explain to people the good things going on and I don’t get much of a response.  I also tell them that agonizing and worrying about murder and mayhem not in their hometowns are making them miserable and they can’t do anything about it.  Most people look at me like I’m an idiot for telling them to stop agonizing over the news. I used to love 24 hour news and doom as much as anyone.  But when I stopped to see why most of these dire predictions never came true or were more manageable than previously thought, that’s when I came to realize that most of what we hear in our media is heavily distorted.  It may all be true, but it isn’t the entire truth.  Yes there are mass shootings.  But there are also space probes exploring strange worlds in our solar system.  Yes there is political corruption.  But there is also lots of good works being done by common people everyday.  To quote the classic movie ‘Network’ , “Television is the illusion.  You people are the real thing.”  Once I began to see the illusion for only part of the story, I changed my focus on what was going on bad news wise and started focusing on what was going right.  The best changes in history have always started with small groups of committed individuals who had visions and acted on those visions.  I am trying to debunk many of the myths of mental illness and stir in people more empathy and compassion for the problems of the mentally ill with this blog.  It probably won’t change the world or even make me a dollar of revenue.  But I am just one of many.  I will speak to whomever I can get to listen.  And I will not wallow in sorrow because the news told me there was another mass shooting or my political leaders are corrupt lawbreakers.

Random Ramblings on Hollywood Movies

I’m going to go off tangent for this post and write on some random thoughts I have had over the last few years.  I’ll try to keep this more light hearted than some of my previous posts.

Why are space aliens in the movies usually such jerks?  The aliens from ‘Independence Day’, the foes of Sigourney Weaver from ‘Alien’, the large bugs from those campy ‘Starship Troopers’ movies (I actually liked that movie as I had a thing for Denise Richards in high school), the ‘Predator’ series, and the Empire from Star Wars are key examples.  Even Star Trek got in on less than pleasant aliens with the war loving Klingons and anal retentive Vulcans (though I absolutely loved Mr. Spock as the perfect compliment to Captain Kirk).  Only occasionally are there cool aliens featured in Hollywood like Superman, E.T., Yoda, and the Avatar aliens. And that’s about it, besides the trippy aliens from ‘2001.’ You would think any species that is advanced enough to master deep space travel would have abandoned their violent and animalist natures centuries before they set out to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Why are most movies about the future dystopic?  Most movies about the future are like the Terminator series, the Matrix trilogy, Equilibrium, Gattaca, Brave New World, etc.  Even H.G. Wells presented a real lousy future in ‘The Time Machine’ clear back in the late 1800s.  Can anyone show me any movies about the future where the future isn’t hellish?  I can think only of Star Trek and it’s various spinoffs and Futurama.  But even Futurama features immoral crackpot scientists and alcoholic robots who want to “kill all humans.” Seriously Hollywood, come up with some futuristic movies where the future doesn’t suck.

Why is it rich people or large corporations are always villains in Hollywood movies?  Who decided that having money makes you evil and being poor is virtuous?  Yeah I get that the Bible said “It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”  But the Bible, like many ancient works, is full of metaphors.  That’s how people get ideas across.  I use raging torrents of metaphors all the time.  If there were no metaphors there would be no music, no poetry, no religion, no philosophy, no literature, and no culture.  But I have known enough poor people, enough rich people, and enough middle class people to know that having money, or not, does not make or break your character.  All social economic classes have their share of jerks, saints, sinners, humanitarians, cranks, heroes, and losers.  Why are companies dumping toxic waste into rivers and supposedly holding back future technologies getting award winning documentaries made about their evils and the companies that develops life saving medicines and better yielding crops get maybe a thirty minute snippet on the Discovery Channel?  Seriously, where is the good news from big business version of Michael Moore?

Why does Hollywood feel compelled to roll out remakes of movies from the 1980s that usually weren’t that good to begin with? How many sequels do we really need?  I’m just waiting for the suits at the studios to roll out remakes of ‘The Princess Bride’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, and ‘Platoon.’ I heard a few days ago they are doing another Indiana Jones’ movie.  Harrison Ford has got to be in his seventies by now.  How much treasure can his tired old bones carry? Once again Hollywood, you’re running out of good ideas.  Maybe you should just let movie goers submit suggestions at the theaters or your Facebook pages.  Really, how many remakes of campy 1980s movies are we going to get subjected to before movie goers revolt in mass and just subscribe to Netflix or Hulu?

I have to admit I haven’t been to the movies in almost two years.  Most of the movie watching I do is on my computer with Netflix or Youtube.  I haven’t gone back because it just seems too much hassle to fight traffic, pay for a ticket, buy overpriced sodas and treats only to watch the same worn out story line over and over while the kid sitting behind me kicks the back of my chair as someone’s cell phone rings every five minutes.  Maybe I’m getting picky in my old age and not being hip or keeping up with the young people.  But I wasn’t hip even as a young person.  I love watching movies, don’t get me wrong.  I just love watching them at home.  In movie theaters they get kind of picky about people eating pizza and hot wings while having a beer during the show.  But I love the freedom of being able to watch movies at home.  Long live the Internet.