Asking For Assistance

From my earliest memories I always wanted to be of assistance to others.  My dad sometimes tells stories of when they were building their house in my childhood hometown I was often fetching tools for my dad even as a two year old.  I often went with my mom to feed some of the stray cats in our town and try to find homes for them even before I started school.  When I was in high school I always made a point of being one of the cool upperclassmen who didn’t harass the freshmen or junior high kids.  In college, I had stash of over the counter medical supplies that I sometimes gave to my dorm mates.  I was the guy on our wing who always had toe nail clippers and anti itch cream.  I also proofread a lot of research papers for classmates as I had a good eye for wording things better even as a teenager.  When I moved out on my own I used to help people move as I owned an SUV for several years.  I also took people to the grocery store whenever I needed supplies more often than not.  I eventually had to start charging people as a few people were overusing the service.

Now that I am more home bound and have more aches and pains, I’m now the one asking for assistance more often.  I now have a cleaning lady come in to scrub my place down once a week.  One of my neighbors now helps me wash my laundry a few times a month as long as I pay her a small fee and provide the soap and laundry money.  Her husband sometimes makes supper for me on the weekends.  Last weekend it was meat loaf and made from scratch gravy and mashed potatoes.  Perfect cold food weather that I, as a bachelor, don’t make for myself very often.  I probably would have made more complex dishes than my grilled steaks, bratwursts, and barbecued chicken strips if I was cooking for a family or a girlfriend.

For the first several months of hitting the middle aged wall, I had a tough time accepting that I would be wise to ask for more assistance.  I had always been the one giving my assistance to others, often with no expectation of any return.  I don’t how much of this is my illness, being a man, or having the independent streak that I do.  But it took some pride swallowing and soul searching in order to come to the realization that 1) I’m not as spry and healthy as I once was, 2) twenty years of schizophrenia took more of a toll on me than I wanted to admit, and 3) there is no shame in seeking outside aide.

For years I was the one aiding others.  I guess now that my health isn’t as stable as it once was, asking for help more often will become normal.  But then again, I will be 40 next June.  And many of my friends the same age as I am are starting to experience the early stages of declining health.  A friend of mine has arthritis in her hips.  Another friend of mine now wears glasses and his hands aren’t as stable as they were even five years ago.  A third friend of mine is fighting cancer.  A cousin of mine died from cancer in her forties.  My brother had to have eye surgery because his eyes were getting so bad.  A cousin of mine had a surgery a while back that required him to do rehab for awhile.  The wife of one of my cousins has had several surgeries already and she is my age.  A friend of mine from high school has a wife who has some kind of blood disease, I think.  All of these people are my age or only a few years older.  None of us smoked or did drugs in our younger days.  But things tend to fall apart in middle age.

While I feel guilty that I couldn’t manage both my schizophrenia and physical health perfectly ( I opted to focus more on mental health than physical health in my younger years), I am grateful I have family and friends who are willing to help me out now that I am no longer as physically strong as I once was.  In short, being decent and helpful to people eventually pays off.  It may get you taken advantage of once in awhile, especially in your younger and healthier years, but the world does seem to have a round about way of rewarding people for making efforts to be decent to others.  It may take decades to get a return, but what comes around sometimes does come back to you.  In short, it doesn’t pay to be a jerk to people during the early years.  Some people do seem to get away with being jerks and hypocrites but eventually things can backfire on them.  If nothing else, history is not kind to people like that.  Whether it’s God, Karma, Justice, the Universe, etc., just because life starts unfair and unjust people get rewarded short term, they often get their due even if it’s only being remembered for being a jerk by future generations.

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I Enjoy Adulthood Even With Mental Illness

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I must admit, I love being an adult.  I love the freedom involved.  I love having my own money and getting to decide how I get to spend it.  I love that I don’t have to answer to authority figures I didn’t choose.  If a boss was giving me static at a job, I could always look for a different job.  If a landlord was giving me a hard time, I always had the option of moving to a different place.  I love that I can do things like vote and go to casinos.  I enjoy that I don’t have to feel guilty for expressing my opinions and having my likes and dislikes.  I like that I can read whatever I want.  I love having privacy.  I enjoy not getting yelled at for trivial things like when I was in school or living with my parents.  I like the fact that I can avoid people who give me too much static.  When you are in school, you just can’t avoid bullies or sadistic teachers.  Sure I’ve had bosses and coworkers who were jerks and whiners, but at least I had the option of finding another job if I didn’t connect with said bosses or coworkers.  Changing schools is a lot tougher.

Even though I have been living with schizophrenia since at least age seventeen, I have found that it is getting easier to work around it the older I get.  The bad periods don’t last nearly as long nor are as intense as they were in my early twenties.  In my late 30s, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to be defined by what job I have or if I have a wife and kids or not.  I am not my job.  I am not less of a human being because I am not married.  Sure I still deal with people that tell me “mental illness is fake” or that “you’re not a real man.”  But as an adult it is much easier to blow those jerks and losers off and ignore them.  You think I’m faking mental illness, then screw you.  It’s not my job to meet your standards.  It is so much easier to not be bothered by criticism as a 36 year old than when I was 21.  I just hope that the older I get, the symptoms will become even less severe and I will care even less about naysayers and idiots.

I still isolate a lot and avoid socializing with my complex mates.  But I think I’m more mentally stable because of said lack of socializing.  When I was a kid people used to tell me I was being “anti-social” and had “attitude problems” because I didn’t like going to high school sporting events and county fairs.  There really wasn’t much to do in my farming village besides school events, church activities, and county fairs.  There was only one movie theatre in a fifty mile radius from my hometown. I didn’t enjoy watching people throw balls around much as a kid.  As an adult I really don’t have to feel guilty for not watching such things.  I do watch some college football and basketball tournaments just to give myself something to talk about with other people.  Most people still don’t like discussing science and technology in casual conversations.  But I haven’t been to any sporting events in person besides minor league baseball games in almost five years.  And I don’t feel the least bit guilty or anti-social because of it.  And as an adult I have these options.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

I don’t really understand people who are nostalgic about their youths or the past.  I might be a little nostalgic about growing up if I had more friends, was bullied less, and wasn’t so much of a social misfit in my school.  I am kind of nostalgic about my college years because I knew lots of smart people, had lots of interesting conversations, could do things at the spur of the moment with no planning, could study what I felt like studying, and had the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood.  College was much more stimulating and enjoyable than grade school or high school.  Sure I never got to use my degree in a job, but I blame the schizophrenia for that completely.  And I am grateful everyday I can keep in contact with old friends through Facebook.

I love living in the here and now of May 2017.  Sure getting to this point was rough dealing with schizophrenia for almost twenty years.  Sure my physical health took a beating because my mental illness and the side effects of the psych medications.  But after twenty years of schizophrenia I have figured out how to deal with bad days and psychotic breaks.  I have also learned how to enjoy the small things of life more than many of my mentally stable friends and family.  Happiness for me is watching a sunset, or eating chicken wings at a sports bar with college friends, or seeing my niece and nephews for a few hours, or talking with my parents about history or technology, or reading internet sites like futurism.com or bloomberg.com about trends in science and current events.  I had my ups and downs with schizophrenia.  I had many breakdowns when I took a lot of grief out on my parents and friends.  Fortunately those breakdowns are getting less severe and shorter as I age.  I have had to go to the mental hospital twice. But both times I was self committed and my longest stay was one week.  I may not be able to hold a forty hour a week job, but at least I tried several different lines of work before I came to the conclusion that traditional employment wasn’t in my future.  And it’s not shameful to not hold a full time job, especially if you have a disability or find other outlets to give back to people.  I can still drive a car, I can still buy my own groceries, pick up my medications, keep appointments, and more or less live on my own even with mental illness.  Some people can’t claim that.  In short I love being an adult.  And I wouldn’t want to go back to my youth, even though I had more friends and better health in college.  Being an adult rocks.  It really does.