Rants About Trying To Socialize With “Normal” People

Haven’t been out much this spring.  It seems like when I feel decent enough to go out it’s cold and raining.  When I feel too depressed or anxious, that’s when the weather is good. I pretty much just stay at home most of the time.  I fear that I’m developing a phobia of being out in public.  I want to stay home, read, use my computer, write, and sleep.  And that is about it anymore.  I don’t even want to socialize with anyone in person anymore.  My landlady came to my apartment a few days ago and chewed me out.  I won’t go into details except that it scared me real bad.  I don’t want to go into details, so please don’t ask.

I have just been having a rough go with people in general this spring.  One day when I left my apartment, I stepped into the hallway only to see and hear several of my neighbors arguing and screaming at each other.  It was bad enough I would have called the police except I was too scared to.  Several of the people involved live near me and I know they would have made my life miserable had I reported them.  I often hear my neighbors argue and fight.  I occasionally smell pot smoke so thick I get slightly buzzed off it.  And it isn’t the good type of buzz, it’s the kind I am noxious and want to vomit type buzz coupled with migraines.

When I do get past my hallway, I get into the main assembly hall where there are vending machines and occasionally coffee left over from the morning social hour.  I don’t go there much because it seems the only people that want to talk are in bad moods.  It wears on me.  I certainly don’t go outside much nor do I drive much anymore.  I do all my shopping from online now.  I’m scared to go out in public anymore.  I always get people looking at me like I’m going to assault them or try to steal from their stores.  You act like you never saw a fat single man before who can read and converse beyond a fifth grade level.  I fear that some of these people may read me wrong, confront me and that will start a nervous breakdown and I’ll either wind up in prison or dead.  Just because of some scaredy cats reading a stranger wrong.

The whole “stranger danger” movement created an entire civilization of fear mongers and dysfunctional neurotics who are afraid of anyone but themselves.  It’s a mountain made out of an ant hill as far as I’m concerned.  Statistically speaking, you and your children are far, far more likely to be murdered, assaulted, raped, robbed, swindled, or molested by people you know then don’t.  Far more children are hurt by religious leaders, teachers, and even parents than hard core street gangs or Hell’s Angels types.  But it doesn’t make for good headlines or made for TV movies.  I hate it that most people can’t even do basic math or even understand basic statistics.  It’s really messing up our civilization and causing people to make terrible decisions.  And it’s making us miserable and lonely.

I actually want to socialize. But I am no longer willing to tolerate being treated guilty until proven innocent every time I enter public life.  I am no longer willing to tolerate being surrounded by rude and angry people all the time.  Many people are also just flat out act dumb too.  I once read in article and saw a TED talk that said that people’s IQ and overall intelligence are higher than our grandparents’ generation.  I don’t believe it, at least not in my elders or my peers.  I don’t see it in person or online. Everybody is just mean to each other all the time from what I seen just in my small midwest hometown and online interactions.  I hear all this talk about how we got to physically discipline our kids or their turn out to be worthless.  Spare the rod and spoil the child they say.  Fine with me.  But most adults could stand to the exact same type of physical discipline as far as I can tell.  But if I do that, then that’s assault and I’ll go to prison.  The USA already has more people in prison than the old USSR ever did at any point.  Look this up.

It isn’t just the “lousy kids” causing trouble.  The elders just love to rant and rave about how bad the teenagers and twenty somethings suck.  Even people my age are starting in on the kids.  Never mind it’s the “lousy kids” who are fighting and getting killed in your endless wars, paying far more for college educations than their grandparents did yet facing far worse job markets, can’t afford most houses or even cars even with multiple incomes, etc.  And these kids are supposed to be grateful for cheap electronics and communications?  Why, providing the internet and raising these kids who will end up being heroes eventually are the best thing my generation and my parents’ generation will ever do.  Let these kids work their mojo and get out of their way.  I see many parallels between the millenial people and the kids in my nephews’ generations and the generations that produced the World War II and World War I veterans.

Granted it’s socially acceptable to hate these kids.  I swear they are getting it even worse than what I did back in the 1980s and 1990s.  Why do we as a civilization and a species hate those with youth, vigor, and in their prime breeding years?  That has to be something unique to our species.  At least animals that don’t want their offspring will kill them when they are infants.  Civilized humans will just emotionally and mentally cripple them for life.  People tried to crush my spirit and my friends’ spirits when we were teenagers and young adults.  Get what, you failed.  You only made us stronger and more capable.    I actually encounter far more verbal abuse online and in person from my elders than anyone in my age bracket or younger.  Wisdom comes age, no it doesn’t.

People worry that science fiction dystopia could become reality.  For some of us, dystopia has been our reality for years.  It’s just neurotypical people are only recently starting to deal with things that the mentally ill, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, sexual minorities, etc. have had to deal with for thousands of years.  It stinks being treated like a  potential criminal because what have you, doesn’t it?  Many neurotypicals are losing their minds and blowing their tops primarily, I think, simply because they aren’t used to being viewed with suspicion and fear.  I have been viewed with fear and suspicion my entire life, mainly because of my size, mental capacity, physical strength, mental illness, and I just don’t desire to socialize with large numbers of people.  I love socializing, but only with intelligent and empathic people.  I can’t stand social mixers, cocktail parties, bar scenes, or even church dinners.  I never have been able to adapt to these situations.

I was far more at home in my class discussion groups in college than I ever was anywhere else.  I think had I never gotten mentally ill I would have been content to work at a large university or think tank.  I would have fell in love with that kind of work.  Maybe spend my mornings teaching classes, go have my lunch while having conversations with other faculty members, maybe lift weights with the football coaches after work, and then spend my evenings working in the lab or libraries.  People say that those who can’t teach.  As if teaching is a dishonorable career field.  Whatever idiot came up with the stupid phrase “those who can’t teach” was probably an American. At least I would have loved working in academia before the whole speech codes, safe spaces, and no freedom for those we don’t agree with social justice thugs came along.  Maybe I am still alive at this point precisely because I became mentally ill and had a reasonably acceptable excuse to drop out of my society.  I was hated and despised at every job I ever held.  Not because I was bad at my job, but because I was good and could often think of better ways of doing things than even my bosses.

People are scared senseless of any kind of ability and intelligence it seems, at least that’s my experience.  But if hating achievement, progress, risk taking, and standing out in anyway not deemed socially acceptable is the spirit of this place and age, then being alone and on disability pension is the best I will be able to do for the time being.  The only way I, and people like me, could ever have even a remotely normal life is for a massive paradigm shift that values creativity and high achievers.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not here in USA.  I wonder how free thinkers, odd fellows, weirdos, and eccentrics are condemned and marginalized in other parts of the world.  I’d love to hear this.  I keep telling myself and my friends “this isn’t normal.”  But even I am starting to lose hope that people will come to their senses ever again.

 

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.

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.

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.

Holidays, Friends, and Family with Schizophrenia

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving in my country.  I’m currently at my parents house and it’ll be a real small gathering.  It’ll be just me, my parents, and maybe an aunt or two.  My brother and all my cousins will be at their spouses’ families for the holiday.  I spent last Thanksgiving alone as I was having bad flare ups on and off for weeks before.  My brother had his four kids at my mom’s house and I didn’t want to risk having problems around the kids.  I may have had breakdowns on my parents, doctors, counselors, and friends but I’m not about to take my illness out on children.  I know my flare ups wear on my friends and make my parents and extended family sick with worry.  But even in the worst flare ups I ever had I never completely cut off family.

The holidays can be rough time for people.  In many families past grievances are brought up and cause divisions within.  It wasn’t until recent years did I realize just how unique my family was in that we never got to where we stopped talking to people.  I think my situation is made easier by both of my parents spending their careers in the medical fields and most people on both sides of my family being above average smarts and pretty accepting of my mental health problems.  My father has a cousin with bipolar I believe.  He lives on his own but I don’t think he holds a permanent job.  It helps that most of my extended family had previous experience working with mental health problems because of my father’s cousin.  My family has had it’s disagreements and problems but we never got to where we just cut communication.

I’m not going out shopping on Black Friday.  Did that probably twelve years ago.  My father and I went to a home improvement warehouse and I was cured of ever wanting to do Black Friday again after about thirty minutes.  And that place was quite mild compared to many places.  I do most of my shopping online anymore.  I wonder how the whole Black Friday madness ever got started.  I worked in retail one Christmas and it certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for retail store clerks and what they go through from late October to late December.

As far as my Thanksgiving plans go, I’ll probably enjoy my parents company, maybe help them decorate their house with Christmas lights, and be appreciative that I weathered another year while fighting with schizophrenia.  I’ll also be thankful for the science and tech advances made this year, some of which I have outlined in previous blog entries.