How I Learned to Relax and Fall in Love With the Internet

We are still in the middle of winter in my hometown.  Got a couple inches of snow on top of the glaze of ice a couple days ago.  Haven’t really gone anywhere since the snow.  Driving on ice kind of makes me afraid these days, more so than in the past.  I guess since my car accident I have been more afraid to drive.  I think that wreck messed me up more than I cared to admit, especially at first.  Fortunately I don’t have to drive much if I don’t want to anymore.  Most of what I  need I can get here in town in less than a fifteen minute drive or even have it delivered to my house.  I usually get my groceries delivered twice a month.  I still sometimes run to the store if there is something I forgot.  I admit that it’s been over a year since I set foot in a Wal Mart or Target.  If I need something from those places bad enough, I usually order through Amazon or any other service.  I usually special order my clothing via a big and tall men’s online store.  Since I am a large man, sometimes finding a wide variety can be tough.  The store where I previously bought most of my shirts and pants here in town closed a little over a year ago.  In short, I can buy almost everything I need online anymore besides fuel for my car.  The only time I write checks is when I pay my rent at the beginning of the month.

None of this would have been possible when I was in high school back in the 1990s.  I didn’t even have an email address until I was a senior in high school, much to the shock of my nephews and niece.  I rather enjoy shopping online I admit.  Since I am much more  a visual learner than auditorial, it is far easier for me to see the selection presented in an online format or even an old catalog than hearing about the specials over the phone or even talking to sales people in person.  I used to work in sales when I was in my twenties.  It used to be frustrating to me to lose sales because we didn’t have what my clients wanted in stock or it was the wrong color or style.  We were only beginning the special orders online back in the early 2000s.  Now I would feel almost naked in public without these options.  Yet, as much as I enjoy shopping and interacting online, I do understand why some people lament the loss of going shopping, socializing, etc. in person.  I used to do all my banking in person for years.  But, as simple as my finances are, I can easily do every online now.  The only reason I would need to set foot in my local bank is to buy quarters for my coin operated laundry machines in my complex.  And I imagine it won’t be too many years before we go to the scan cards or something similar.  I usually don’t buy much with folding money anymore, which makes me kind of strange in my family and in the small town I live in.  I know some people in big cities have gone all digital money in most cases anymore.  Even my cleaning lady accepts PayPal for her services.

I still read as much as I did in years past.  It’s just now it’s more online articles, ebooks, and audiobooks now.  Currently working on a couple audiobooks and a couple ebooks.  I’m currently reading an English translation of the Quran and the Epic of Gilgamesh.  I have read the King James Bible cover to cover when I was in college as well as some of the works of Sun Tzu and Confucious.  I guess I have recently gotten more interested in foreign cultures than even previously.  I have seen a few documentaries on ancient Egypt and Sumeria as well as some on Native American civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans.  I have always loved learning and reading.  I understand why some things aren’t covered in traditional school, sometimes because there just isn’t enough time to cover everything that could be enlightening and beneficial.  If I were to die an unexpected premature death, I would hope to be found with a book in my hand or in front of a computer with a scientific article on the screen.

I admit to loving learning, sometimes just for my own enlightenment.  Some may consider this intellectual vanity, I don’t know.  But I will say that having easy access to the collected knowledge and wisdom of human civilization via the Internet has helped keep me occupied during my years with mental illness.  Even though I can’t hold a forty hour a week job anymore, I try to make up for it through self directed study and sharing this wisdom with whoever wishes to hear it.  The internet has been a godsend for me with my geeky and scholarly interests.

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Winter Stability With Mental Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying to Maintain Hope Around Negative People

 

I just don’t talk to anyone much anymore.  But then it seems like people have been avoiding me too lately.  I hope this is just my paranoia creeping in.  But it does seem like almost no one has time or energy to just chat lately.  I fear that I’m becoming this way too.  I try to stay optimistic overall but it is tough.  First, I’m not an optimist by nature as I wasn’t raised to be one.  I was almost never told anything positive about the world or life in general from my elders as a kid.  Made me wonder why anyone had kids if the world was falling apart as much as my parents, teachers, and church elders told me it was.  But that was before I got out on my own and came to the realization that most people are more ruled by short term emotion than by long term logic.  As someone who is part artist and part science enthusiast, I find my emotion and logical sides at conflict quite often.  I have spent the better part of the last five years training up the logical part of my mind.  It isn’t easy and it’s often frustrating.  Bill Gates once stated that people tend to overestimate change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term.  Getting to see what cool stuff happens next is one of the things that keeps me going.  It’s the scientist, the engineer, the doctor, the humanitarian that gives me as much hope as most of my friends get out of their political parties.  I try to explain to my friends that politicians can pass budgets, pass favorable laws, and then get out of the way.  That’s about all they can do.  I have never seen a politician build a power plant or figure out how to grow more crops with fewer chemicals.  Many problems of modern civilization are science and engineering issues, not political or even social ones.

I just as well be speaking ancient Sanskrit to my friends in that they’re not coming around and probably never will.  I would love to live in a world where the scientists and doctors were as well known and respected as pro athletes and big shot Hollywood stars.  But I suppose that’s a pipe dream that won’t come true in my lifetime, if ever.  As it is I am a mentally ill unemployed man trying to make sense of the madness in the people around me.  At this point I’m glad I don’t have a regular job in that it would probably drive me to complete break down.  I’m glad for the safety nets I have.  It saddens and sickens me that there are people who want to remove even these.  We live in a post industrial civilization where we can feed everyone, not some Stone Age Darwinian survival of the fittest setup our ancestors already overcame.  Yet, it seems like some people are bent on bringing back the Stone Age.  I hope it’s just my paranoia creeping in but it does seem like there’s too many people losing hope and giving up right before things get real interesting.  As far as any politicians of any country go, they are merely “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot” to quote Carl Sagan.  We would be wise to regain such perspective in our own lives.

Finding The Positives of Social Media With A Mental Illness

Been staying close to home for the last few days.  I still really don’t want to socialize much in person.  Yet I still socialize online via facebook and youtube comments all the time.  I have found that I’m having more pleasant and enriching conversations with people that have common interests than even people I see on a day to day basis.  I’m beginning to think that connecting people from all over the world with similar interests but will never meet face to face is probably social media’s greatest contribution to humanity.  I guess I find myself alienated from many people I’ve known for years, including some of my own family, simply because we don’t share similar interests.  Kind of sad but at the same time I’m grateful that I can connect with people who share my enthusiasm for science, tech, and living overall.  I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for future thinkers and optimists in previous eras or even when my grandparents were teenagers.  I know that had I lived in Medieval times, I’d probably be under house arrest, burned at the stake, or just a serf farming someone else’s land.  None of those seem worthy of my nostalgia.

I suppose as it is I will be happy that I have a means to connect with similar minded people even if they are on the other side of the world.  I doubt I’ll live old enough to see a Virtual Reality setup where people with similar interests can form their own virtual towns or even virtual nations.  But I guess I am honored to see in platforms like facebook, twitter, snap chat, etc. the crude beginnings of such virtual communities.  Of course some will abuse it and get trapped in echo chambers.  But if I’m going to be in an echo chamber, I just as well be in an optimistic one that either attempts to solve problems or even just serve as cheerleaders for those solving problems in the physical world.  I never had the math scores to be an engineer nor the science scores to be a doctor, but I guess since I can’t be among those making the positives a reality, I’ll be among the ones who appreciate what they do and cheer them on.

My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

August 4, 2018

Even though we still have officially six weeks of summer left, it’s starting to feel like autumn is just around the corner.  I’m seeing back to school sales and getting fliers for said sales in my mail on almost a daily basis.  One of my neighbors has tomato and pepper pants in the back yard of our apartment complex and they are looking almost ready for harvest.  My parents have kept tomato plants as far back as I can remember and we always had fresh tomatoes every August.  A friend of mine from out of state and her husband grow tomatoes and peppers to make fresh salsa.  I should sweet talk them into sending me a jar one of these soon days.  School for my nephews and niece starts in two weeks.  Soon I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons watching college football.  I guess I always preferred the college game to the pros, if for no other reason, Nebraska isn’t big enough to support pro teams.

Mentally I still feel quite stable.  And I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I usually eat two large protein rich meals per day and drink mostly only water and coffee.  I don’t even buy bread anymore as I have cut most grains out of my diet.  I don’t eat much for dairy besides Greek yogurt and occasionally cheddar cheese.  But my diet mostly consists of baked and grilled lean meats and fresh vegetables.  I saw an online article featuring a former pro football player who lost over 100 pounds in a year and all he was doing was eating grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, lots of water, and lifting weights three times a week.  While I don’t count on such excellent results, it doesn’t hurt to aim big.  I feel like I’ve made much progress since Independence Day, exactly one month ago today.

I socialize in person more now.  Most days I leave my apartment at least once daily, if to just check the mail or buy a Diet Coke from the ground floor vending machine.  I usually drive my car three times a week just to keep it loose and ready to go.  Still haven’t made any road trips this summer besides going to my parents’ house a couple times.

I am still mentally stable.  I am usually in bed by midnight and awake by nine a.m. most days.  I avoid drama and pointless arguments as much as possible now.  Overall I feel well.  I haven’t felt this well for such a prolonged time period in a few years.  And I love it.

I’m glad that summer is almost over.  I always enjoyed autumn more than summer.  I look forward to the cooler weather, the turning leaves, the farmers’ markets, fall football,  playoff baseball, and the college kids returning to town.  My town really comes to life during the falls and springs when the college is in session.  I can hardly wait.

Changes in Personality and Mental Illness Symptoms with Age

Currently going through a prolonged period of stability.  My levels of depression and anxiety have been quite low lately.  When I do have such issues, they don’t last long and aren’t very bad.  I haven’t had a breakdown of any kind in months.  Haven’t been hospitalized for almost five years now.  I was having feelings of depression and paranoia earlier this year but I wasn’t overly concerned about it as I wasn’t having the anger or aggression issues that traditionally went with it.  Sure I would go days without leaving my apartment, but I wasn’t excessively angry or looking for arguments.  So I wasn’t as worried as I should have been.  Not wanting to socialize for long stretches of time isn’t normal for me.  Sure I have had stretches when I wanted to be left alone for several hours or a day at most.  But I was going sometimes entire weeks when I’d leave my apartment only two or three times the entire week.

Naturally some of my neighbors became concerned.  I may have never been Mr. Popular but I made it a point to be polite and thoughtful to everyone I met.  Yet as I wasn’t even socializing, nor did I want to, that wasn’t normal for me.  I have never been one to just bunker down for days.  I had gotten to that point, particularly during the winter.  It wasn’t my traditional problem with mental illness, but it was a different one.

People do tend to change some with age.  I imagine mental illness issues are probably not much different.  Aspects of my personality and habits have altered over the years.  I’m not as hot tempered as I was even five years ago.  I laugh more often now than I did in my twenties.  I enjoy the little things of life more.  Overall, I’m happier now in my late 30s than I was in my late 20s.  And this is despite my physical health not being as good as it was ten years ago or my being more social than I am now.  I think I have gotten happier and more calm with age.  And I quite enjoy it.