Over the last few days I’ve broken out of some of my old routines. I have stopped spending much time on social media. I have quit watching news videos on youtube and have even shut off my internet news feed. I’m trying to break the cycle of sleeping so much. And most importantly, I have taken the time to watch some comedy videos on youtube.
I think one of my biggest problems over the last several months was I wasn’t taking any time to unwind and relax. I have been so focused on how unhappy and angry many people in my life have been that I forgot to relax. I think that far too many people are wound up for too much of the time. I think there really isn’t enough humor and laughter, at least not in recent months. Too many people spend way too much time worrying about things they simply cannot control. Are you worried about terrorism? You’re much more apt to be killed by a drunk driver or die from falling in the shower than you are from a terrorist attack. Are you worried about climate change? There are probably hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers working on practical solutions and alternatives to polluting energy while all you can probably do by yourself is drive less and recycle your aluminum cans. Are you worried about some drug resistant super bug decimating our species? Scientists and doctors all over the world are actually working on solutions while all you do is fret over the latest news reports.
In short, worry by itself is good for nothing. That’s why I decided to stop watching current events type things and dystopian science fiction, which is most science fiction anymore, and find comedy videos on youtube. Been watching a lot of Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, and John Oliver the last several days. I have also watched some old Penn and Teller shows. I have found that I can handle some current events and news if mixed in with healthy doses of humor and satire. And let’s face it, a lot of what has been going on the last several months looks like episode scripts that were too outlandish even for South Park. And I doubt that I’m the only person who hasn’t resorted to humor to help deal with difficulty. There are reasons that The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight are as popular, if not more so, than some news shows on traditional cable news networks.
And I think the renewed focus on humor and happiness is beginning to pay off. I haven’t really felt depressed or irritable for a few days. I’m not eating as much fast food. I’m going to bed earlier. And I’m not worrying about things and other people as much. I just feel like I have a better quality of life overall these last few days. And it’s mainly because I sought out reasons to laugh again.
I have found when I talk to chronically normal people about what life with a mental illness is like, they are often surprised that it mental illness isn’t always the same all the time. They seem to be shocked I have good days, let alone times when I laugh out of happiness. I imagine that even informed normals just think that someone with mental illness problems has nothing but problems. Some just think that because I deal with schizophrenia that I have delusions, paranoia, agitation, and depression all the time. Not so. The Hollywood images of the mentally ill being in a hospital being zombie like or loudly ranting isn’t entirely true. Just because there are those with mental illness who sometimes zone out or act ‘stark raving mad’, that doesn’t mean that even those are like that all the time. No it isn’t all doom and gloom anymore than it is all wine and roses. We have our good days and bad days just like even the most chronically normal individuals.
It may be a jaw dropping shock to some, I do have good days even with a mental illness. I do experience moments of what I understand to be happiness. I have times where I am not depressed. I have times when I am not delusional or paranoid. In fact, most of the time I am not delusional or excessively paranoid. When I do have my problems, sometimes it’s only with depression. Sometimes it’s only with excessive agitation or annoyance. There are some times I deal with depression and paranoia at the same time. I am occasionally depressed and delusional when I do feel that living a life with a mental illness is hopeless and better treatments or, gasp, an actual cure for mental illness will not be coming. Fortunately it is only rare that I deal with agitation, paranoia, and delusions all at the same time. That usually only happens only a handful of times per year, with the worst instances coming in late summers. It is those very rare times that cause me, and my friends and family, the most grief.
Delusions that can’t be shaken for a while, crippling depression, being easily agitated, and excessive paranoia are the worst problems I have as a man with schizophrenia. The hallucinations are taken care of as is the impulsive behavior. Even when I am at my worst, my bark is far worse than my bite. But even then, I can usually be talked down out of it within a couple hours. It can be a lively conversation for those couple hours, and that’s putting it politely. Fortunately I haven’t hurt myself, anyone else, or gotten myself hurt by anyone else during those times. Even with the four major symptoms of my schizophrenia, I usually experience only one or two at a time. That is most of the flare ups I have. The instances where I have three symptoms at once are rare.