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.

A Wedding For A College Buddy and Ramblings on Getting Older

Starting on Thursday, I’m going on an out of state road trip for my best friend from college Matt’s wedding.  I’m happy for him as he’s in his late 30s and one of these guys I figured would be fine about not marrying.  He didn’t date at all in college for the three years we were in school together.  I was the one who was trying to get dates.  We pretty much spent our time in college playing strategy games, having all night marathons of discussing history, politics, philosophy, sports statistics, economics, spending our Saturday afternoons watching college football games from practically noon to midnight, and going to the all night diner near Interstate 80 for the 99 cent bottomless cup of coffee and greasy chicken fried steaks.  These were the kind of steaks you could hear your arteries clogging after a few bites.  Matt also got me started on my coffee addiction.  We weren’t drinking Starbucks or anything trendy.  He started me on his ‘cowboy coffee’ that if it were any stronger we’d be spitting out the grinds between swallows.  His was the kind of coffee that after a couple cups, you wouldn’t need to sleep for a couple days.   Since neither of us were much for drinking, we didn’t have times good enough that we can’t remember anything.

He’s now in his late 30s and I just turned 35.  It actually isn’t bad being older.  As I’ve gotten older I realize I don’t have to put up with other people’s garbage if they are disrespectful and their disrespect isn’t a reflection on me.  Surprisingly I do not find myself complaining about the “lazy kids” at all.  I often complained about the ignorance and foolish actions of my peers while in high school and college, wondering when my peers would actually grow up and “act like adults.”  But as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen that maturity and age do not always accompany each other.  I’ve seen teenagers who are wise enough they could be in their thirties and I’ve seen people in their seventies gossip and argue like they were still in grade school.

After awhile I came to see we humans really do concern ourselves over trivial nonsense that doesn’t matter at all.  Case in point is the old men who complain about how disrespectful and lazy kids are in 2015 while forgetting that when they were kids in 1955 the old men in 1955 had the same complaints about them.  And I also heard about good the ‘old days’ were and how the world is now heading to hell in a hand basket.  But the old days were never trouble free any more than modern times.  Mayberry may have been peaceful looking on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, but they never aired the scene with Opie doing ‘Duck and Cover’ drills in school.  And in real life Floyd the Barber may have had a ‘whites only’ sign in his barber shop, especially in the South.  Or go back to the late 1800s with the ‘Irish Catholics Need Not Apply’ signs in businesses.  I could go on but you get the picture.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen patterns from history play out more than once just in my lifetime. People complained about kids playing the old Nintendo systems while ignoring how we spent time outdoors too in the 1980s.  Today, people complain about kids playing Xbox while ignoring how they spend time outdoors too.  The Cold War was keeping people busy with fear as movies like Red Dawn (the Patrick Swayze version) and The Day After were big in the 1980s.  Now ISIS and other terrorist groups are keeping people busy with fear as movies like American Sniper are big in the 2010s.  Gotta keep the pot stirred up I suppose.   LGBT freedoms is a social issue now but who knows what it could be 30 to 40 years from now, freedoms and civil rights for AI machines or genetically modified humans?  Could it be in the far future when we colonize the Moon and Mars, could those two places argue for independence from Earth?  I can picture a futuristic version of a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag being flown in a Martian dust storm.  Humanity has been heading to hell in a hand basket long before we had idea of hell or hand baskets.  Yet we still haven’t gotten there.  And some will  continue to nostalgically believe things were better in bygone eras.  Nope, things are in flux enough that the only real constant in our lives is change.  To quote the great philosopher Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise.”