Hope After A Mental Breakdown

Had a bad breakdown a few days ago.  I am quite sure, after twenty years with a mental illness, there is a seasonal aspect to my illness.  I regret having breakdowns and I especially regret taking my breakdowns out on people I love.  I had felt it coming on for awhile and then it finally broke a few days ago.  I hope this is the last one for a long time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just sob and cry my way out of a breakdown rather than lash out and be angry.  I don’t know how much of that is just my personal illness, or always being told a man showing emotions is a sign of weakness, etc. But it’s part of the illness and part of the price of admission into adulthood.

In spite of the illness, and the contradictions and nonsense I am fed on a daily basis by society and popular culture, I do my best to not let this crush my spirit or kill my love for my fellow humans.  I know I am often harsh and short tempered with my fellow humans, and my countrymen in particular.  But, contrary to popular belief, I do not hate humans or my countrymen.  It’s the polar opposite actually.  I love humanity and I love my country and my countrymen.  I see the cool things we have accomplished in the past and are accomplishing on a daily basis.  I see the potential for greatness every day.  And yes, it does bother me when I see people not living up to that potential greatness.  I am tough on people, not because I hate them, but because I believe everyone can excel at least one thing and I can’t stand to see a person waste their potential and time.  I am often tough on my family members because I know they are capable of excellence and have often shown it, especially in times of crisis.  I’m sorry but I don’t have much respect for mediocre work and apathy.

A significant portion of the time when I’m reading science journals online or articles on sites like Bloomberg, CNN, Wall Street Journal, etc. I have to remind myself that this isn’t the science fiction it was when I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I saw the movie Fight Club the other night, and even though the movie was popular when I was in college, I was amazed how people still used land based phone lines, phone booths, primitive looking desktop computers, and even how many people smoked in a movie that came out in the late 1990s.  I personally haven’t had a land phone line since 2007 or 2008 I think.  I haven’t had a desktop computer in 10 years.  And even this year, I was able to email my bank statements and tax information and social security information to my landlady to renew my lease.  All I had to do in person was sign a few documents and pass an annual room inspection.  And since I now have a cleaning lady who drops in once a week, spruces the place up, and allows me to chat with her while she works, the whole process took about a half hour of my time.

I sometimes overlook the progress my fellow humans, myself, and civilization in general has made when I’m bogged down in the day to day struggle.  But when I take a step back and look at it over the course of a few years, it’s quite amazing and gives me hope.  I get even more hope and feel in awe when I look back at over what has happened in the life time of our current crop of world leaders and elders in my life.  I know I am often too harsh on my elders.  I know I need to cut them more slack when I look back and think about all the changes they saw since their childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.  My father can remember his family being one of the first in his hometown to own a black and white television.  And his uncles used to come out to my grandfather’s farm just to watch the test patterns in the evenings.  Both my parents were typing their high school and even college term papers on electric typewriters.  My mother keeps and old style manual typewriter as a decoration in her house and my eight year old nephew is aghast that people used to write on those things.

I also have to remember that, for some of the elders, old Jim Crow laws and criminalization of things like homosexuality, inter racial marriages, and sex outside of marriage were the law of the land in many places until as recently as the 1970s.  Sure, it feels like some people are backsliding at times.  But the forces at work against such backsliding are far more overwhelming than they would have been even forty years ago.

I can’t even begin to imagine what I will see if I make it to age seventy, if I’m privileged enough to make it that far.  That will be in the year 2050.  I’ve seen some scientists predict everything from bases on the moon and Mars, driverless cars being almost everywhere, nuclear fusion based electricity, to where we no longer use oil and gasoline for transport, to even people augmented their physical strength and mental powers through computer based implants and prosthetic and Iron Man type suits.  I guess I don’t know if I want someone rooting around in my skull planting in chips or injecting me full of blood cell sized machines (at least not right now), but I definitely wouldn’t mind something I could wear that would make me smarter or stronger that I could turn off or take off at a moment’s notice.

Even as much as I love science and tech, I am still adjusting to what is happening and what can be.  And only the best minds in science fiction would have even imagined such things that we are working on now when my father was a kid and reading Dick Tracy comic books in the 1950s.  I know eventually I will be the old man that has trouble keeping up.  I imagine even now my nephews would think it odd I don’t know how to run a 3D printer or a VR headset machine.  My twelve year old nephew set up a flight simulator game on VR for my father (a licensed pilot and former Air Force man) recently that my father occasionally uses.

I don’t know what the future holds, certainly not in terms of working.  The only advice I give to my nephews and niece is ‘stay flexible.’  No one knows.  Maybe people like Mark Cuban will be proven right and that the humanities and arts degrees we have called ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’ degrees for a couple generations will be in as much demand in ten years as STEM and medical degrees are now.  Even though I majored in business in college, I am grateful I took some time to read a lot of philosophy and classical literature when I was young and had more energy.  And I was able to do it for free via my college’s library.  Levitt Library on the York College campus was a second home for me when I was college.  If I wasn’t at my dorm room studying, I could easily be found in the library or with a few buddies discussing philosophy, football strategies, history, or even medieval military tactics at the all night truck stop over chicken fried steaks and 99 cent unlimited cups of coffee.

In spite of my recent melt down, I am hopeful again.  Zig Ziglar was right when he said that positive attitudes and behavior is like taking baths every day, it requires daily maintenance.  No one gets mad when they are extra dirty some days, they just bathe for a little longer.  And of course, some days are dirtier and tougher than others.

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End of Winter and Renewed Hope

I think I’m finally breaking out the depression and anxiety fuel irritability that I have been fighting for almost two weeks.  Got some good sleep the last few days, granted at odd times.  I still sleep eight hours a day, but I usually sleep from 8pm to midnight, rattle around for a few hours in the middle of the night, then sleep from 4 am to 8am.  Even though I have an odd sleep pattern anymore, everything isn’t going completely bad.  I started lifting arm weights in my home about two weeks ago.  The first couple sessions were tough as I hadn’t lifted regularly for over a year.  But I think it’s beginning to come back.  Picked up some multi vitamins, fish oil pills, etc. the last time I bought groceries.  I have to think some of my lethargy, aches and pains, etc. were made worse by an unbalanced diet.  For most of the winter I ate lots of lean meats, some soups, yogurts, canned vegetables, rice, and occasional baked potatoes.  I wasn’t getting much for fresh fruits or vegetables this winter.  So I been eating more fresh fruits and vegetables lately.  I’m beginning to notice a positive difference.  I don’t have as many unexplainable aches and pains and I feel mentally sharper and less scattered overall.  My favorite fruit is probably red grapes.  My favorite vegetable has to be tie between green peas and carrots.

I still don’t travel outside of my hometown due to the flood problems.  Many places are still cleaning up and still in danger of even more flooding.  I won’t be surprised if food prices start going up later this year.  It’s been pretty rough for a lot of people but I have been spared much of it so far.

Keeping Myself Company and Thoughts On The Future

Haven’t had much to report for the last few days.  Been getting out of my apartment a little again.  Spent a few hours out the other day because of maintenance work.  I still don’t socialize much in person as it’s just too big of a drain dealing with rude and irritable people most of the time.  Sadly it seems like most people I deal with are in foul moods more often than not.  This is regardless of whether it is online or in person interactions.  It’s times like this that make me glad I can keep myself company for days at a time if necessary.  I have too many problems with my mental illness to be dealing with anger and rudeness from others.

I’m starting to sleep during the days again.  But if I want to avoid people that seems the way to be.  Let me rephrase that, I don’t want to avoid people at all.  I just want to avoid rude, hateful, and stupid people.  I find it sad that we as a civilization had almost godlike powers to get in touch with people all over the world that we would otherwise never met and we squander it tearing other people apart and subdividing ourselves.  I would love to see people stop this madness but I imagine that’s a pipe dream.  I actually think some people want to be angry and miserable.  I think some people do not want to be happy.  I hope I am wrong but I look at their actions and have to wonder.

As I have been spending much more time alone the last several weeks I have been preforming some mental exercises in an attempt to just let my mind wander and think.  One thing I think about is what will future generations in future centuries condemn us in the early 21st century for.  People today readily condemn past generations and civilizations for their attitudes toward slavery, women’s rights, religious zealotry, bigoted attitudes, and general ignorance.  Maybe future generations will curse us for being too sensitive about what others say about us, maybe they’ll hate us for not reigning in our industrial pollution, maybe they’ll hate us for subdividing ourselves into factions and digital tribes, they may hate us for eating meat, they may hate us for medicating our children who don’t like school, maybe they’ll think us too narrow minded and hypocritical, maybe they’ll hate us for waging wars, maybe they’ll hate our general distrust of science, maybe they’ll think we are religious zealots.  In short, we don’t know.  We are not as enlightened as we like to pride ourselves on.  We as a species have come a long way since we started out as hunter gathers in forgotten antiquity, let alone since we started building villages and cities.  But if we think that we, in 2018, are the pinnacle of human wisdom and culture, then we are so sadly mistaken.  We can do much better than we currently are.  And, guess what, we will do much better in the years, decades, and centuries ahead providing we don’t destroy ourselves in some short sighted stupid fit of collective insanity.  We are on our way to achieving some really super cool things within the next several decades, let alone in the far future.  Sure the ride is rough getting there.  There are times I have my doubts about my fellow man.  But the fact is that most advances are discovered by a tiny fraction of the human race.  The rest of us are along for the ride.  We can follow, try but fail miserably to stop change, or get out of the way.  Change is coming.  Change is inevitable no matter how much we snipe at each other in our social interactions.  The world is a cool place in spite what the news man tells us.  If it bleeds it leads because that is what our species developed to notice first.  It was a brilliant survival strategy when we were Stone Age hunters but it’s causing us unnecessary grief and anguish in the Information Age.  Part of me would love to stick around to an old age for no other reason to see negative fools and naysayers proven wrong and I can laugh at their fear and hate.

Furniture, Futbol, and Feeling Fine For the Future

Picked up some new furniture this weekend.  My mother and father let me have one of their couches and office chairs and I have a heavy duty recliner being delivered to my apartment this afternoon from a local furniture store.  I feel like I have an actual home again.  For the last few weeks I didn’t have much in the way of furniture besides a couple dining room chairs and my bed.  It was extremely odd eating my lunches and dinners sitting on my bed.  I had moved my computer desk to my bedroom so I could do my work from my bed.  I’m glad I got a couch and office chair as it makes my apartment feel more like a permanent residence.  And now that I can write from an office chair or couch, I feel like I’m doing more professional work on my blog and even my computer gaming.

Watched the World Cup finals over the weekend.  I kind of wanted Croatia to win as they were big underdogs.  But I wasn’t going to say much as I have readers from both Croatia and France.  But I think that Killian Mbassa (spelling?) from France is going to be as big a star as David Beckham and Cristian Ronaldo by the time he’s through. And he’s only nineteen.  When I was that age I was a geeky farm kid starting college.  But, living in USA,   I am probably a “Johnny Come Lately” when it comes to understanding soccer and appreciating how tough a game it really is.  When I was in college, my attitude was that I respected the soccer players for being in great physical shape.  But I thought it was “a lot of running for so little scoring.”  USA didn’t even have a professional soccer league until I think the 1990s.  So yes, we are behind most of the world in that regard.  I started following mainly because I have a niece and a nephew who love playing soccer.  When my parents were medical missionaries in Panama, most of the kids down there were kicking around soccer balls in the same way kids in USA play basketball all day.  But I did enjoy this year’s World Cup almost as much as I do the Olympics.  And I’m happy to see that USA will be one of the host countries, along with Mexico and Canada, in 2026.  But World Cup served as my sports fix at least until college football and baseball’s push for the playoffs start in September.  Hard to believe that September is only six weeks away.  Where has the time gone?

I have new furniture and we’re now almost halfway through summer.  And overall I’m feeling alright.  I don’t even feel depressed or paranoid very much anymore.  I feel quite hopeful about my life and society as a whole for the first time in months.  I enjoy this feeling.  I wish I could bottle some of it and save it for the “rainy days” that will eventually come back.  But for now, I’ll ride the happy streak I’m on for all it’s worth.  They don’t come along every day.

Optimism and Mental Illness

Optimism and mental illness are two things that probably don’t normally go together.  Yet after fighting through a mental illness for almost twenty years and still being in one piece and still functional, I think I’ve more than earned the right to be an optimist.  And I think being an optimist is a right that too few people take advantage of.

Why shouldn’t I be an optimist?  I have access to a world wide audience through the technological achievement that is the internet.  Fifteen years ago when I started writing poetry in my spare time, I had never even heard of a blog.  Youtube didn’t exist and neither did Facebook.  Even though I don’t make much money from my writings, I have a much bigger audience now than I could have imagined ten years ago.  From the numerous messages I get from readers, I know I’m making a difference.  That’s more than I thought would happen in 2006 after I lost my job at the university and applied for disability.  Back then I thought I was going to be condemned to a life of poverty and quiet desperation.  I also thought I lost most purpose for my life as it became painfully obvious I could never hold a regular job and support myself.  Yet here I am in 2017 with a decent blog, relatively stable mental state, and I’m still here.  Sure I may die earlier than most people without mental illness, but thanks to the internet, modern medicine, advanced counseling techniques, and social safety nets, I have been able to tell my story about living with a mental illness.  Hopefully I’ve been able to dispel some myths about mental illness and break down some barriers.  I just hope that the conversation about mental illness will continue.  As far as I can tell, the mentally ill are among the last people that it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against.  I hope to be part of changing that nonsense.

After surviving with mental illness for twenty years and still being functional and able to live on my own, I have become more optimistic now at age 36 than I was at age 16.  I have gotten optimistic enough that I have found myself less and less tolerant of pessimist, naysayers, and those who spew doom and gloom.  I have left friendships with people who were incurable pessimists.  Though you wouldn’t know it from the news sites, but we are actually living in some of the most prosperous and peaceful times in history.  Of course you aren’t going to hear this from politicians and news casts because news casts and politicians depend on attention and we humans are naturally more likely to notice bad news and threats.  It served us well when we were ice age hunter gatherers but it’s causing us in the more settled and civilized world undue stress and anxiety.  I can tell you from personal experience that most of what people worry about either never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  One of the reasons I refuse to watch the news is that it’s nothing but bad news all the time.  You hear nothing about science advances, humanitarian efforts, or any kind of good news.  But good news isn’t fit to print, now is it?  And I for one am tired of always hearing bad news and doom.  If one were to listen to the “experts”, the world has always been heading for tragedy.  The sky is not falling.  We’ve had problems in the past but we solved them.  We’ll continue to solve our current and future problems.  Mark my words.

After surviving the worst of what schizophrenia has to offer, I have no patience for pessimists and doom sayers.  Sell that snake oil to someone else.  While you worry about problems and do nothing to solve said problems, there are far more people than you will ever know working on solving the world’s problems.  Quit worrying already.

Mental Illness and My Interest In Science

 

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Since it has been colder lately I have found more time to read books and online articles.  I recently finished a couple books by Michio Kaku and Ray Kurzweil.  I’m currently working one of Matt Ridley’s books and a Steven Pinker audiobook.  After the activity of the holidays  is over I’m probably delving into some Carl Sagan or Eric Drexler.  All of these are science books.  Science classes were always my favorite classes in high school.  It really broke my heart when I had to give up science as a career.  But after years of reading philosophy, history, and economics I have come full circle again.  I like science even more now than I did at age sixteen.  Ten years ago I didn’t study science as I was still in mourning over having to give it up.  Who knows?  Maybe if I live long enough I’ll get to see what amounts to effectively a cure for schizophrenia. I could then take my skills as a writer and write for science and tech webpages, unless of course by then machines have taken over most jobs and money is no longer very important.

Being cured of my madness would be a dream come true, especially if I was able to retain most of my natural intelligence and problem solving skills.  I recently saw an article that scientists have identified rare genetic risk variants that can lead to increased risks of developing schizophrenia.    It is actually quite amazing how fast some of these developments are occurring in medical research.  The human genome wasn’t figured out until 2003 and I was diagnosed in 2000.  If we had the same genetic testings in 2000 that we have in 2016 my prognosis might have been even better.  I might not have had to give up my shot at a scientific career.  I probably wouldn’t have spent a year changing medications every few weeks hoping to find something that would work.  I might not have even had to fight through the last two years of high school and the first year of college with a mental illness being completely untreated.  But with the progress being made in medical research into brain issues, who knows what will be available in 15 years, let alone 50.  I only hope the research continues to find new breakthroughs.

Social Media Hiatus and Recovery

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In an attempt to help speed up my recovery from my bouts of depression and hopelessness, I’ve decided to avoid all social media in addition to regular news casts.  I’m now two days into this and I notice a positive difference already.  I’m less stressed and less despondent even after a couple days of media blackout.  I just got so tired of hearing nothing but bad news that I decided to unplug and drop out for at least a few days.  I will still be posting blog entries to Facebook and twitter because my posts automatically post to these anyway.

One thing I have noticed is inspite my vacation from news and social media, my life still goes on.  All life still goes on in fact.  Some things I’m probably happier not knowing quite simply because there is nothing I can do about it.  While I may not be happy with any of my elected officials, it’s not like I get an extra vote for every time I post to Facebook concerning the elections.  The U.S. Constitution never said anything about uber informed people getting extra votes.  On election day, I’m just going in and casting my votes and that is going to be that.  I’ll live with whatever the results are.  And I’ll still pay more attention to science and technology endeavors than I do to politics or popular culture.  Unless the Kardashians figure out nuclear fusion or cure cancer, I couldn’t care less about them.

While I may be unplugging from social media, I’m still keeping informed on things like science.  I am finding out the lights are still on and there’s still food in my pantry regardless of what nonsense a political figure says or whatever some troll writes.  Some pundit says something about the election, so what?  Nations are rattling their sabres and talking about wars, will my worrying prevent war?  I can only control my own life, what I see online, and how I choose to react to it.  And that is all I need.  Sure I’ll miss my friends during my hiatus from social media, but it’s probably for the best for the next several days.