Isolation

Even though I feel quite a bit less depressed and more energetic since the meds change, I still have a fear of being out in public.  Anymore I do most of my shopping in the early mornings as I can avoid crowds then.  I used to shop in the overnight hours but anymore I’m afraid to be out of my apartment after 11pm.  I just no longer trust the people that are out and about in the overnight anymore.  It’s too bad as I have always been a night person.  So on the nights I can’t fall asleep at a reasonable hour, I just stay up and play computer games while I have a youtube audiobook on in the background.

This isolation even extends to family.  I haven’t been to my parents’ house since April.  I just no longer enjoy traveling.  The older I get, the more content I am to stay home and entertain my friends and family here.  I used to be one of those who would rather go to a friend’s house than have my friends come to my house.  It didn’t help any that my older brother always had his friends over and his friends and my friends didn’t get along.  I would rather host my parents at my place than drive to their house, and they live less than two hours away.

I found out that I would rather have guests at my house over last Christmas after I twisted my knee and couldn’t navigate stairs.  My parents came to my house and we celebrated Christmas here.  I haven’t been to a friend’s house in two years, instead preferring to talk to them over the phone or have them come to my place.  I also lost a few friends over the last couple years because I just can no longer really handle conflict and strife.  And there hasn’t been a shortage of either one lately.  I don’t thrive on conflict or bad vibes and I don’t understand people who do.  Never have.

My family reunion is this weekend.  As much as I would love to visit some of my relatives, I’m not going.  I can’t handle crowds of any kind any more.  Most of the time I’m content to be left alone with my thoughts anymore.  I don’t know if it’s the illness doing it or the illness augmenting the bad experiences I had with people in my younger years.  I just no longer want to be in a crowd.  I’m also content to socialize as little as possible.  Seems to me many people are just angry and negative all the time anymore.  As I practically live on the internet for much of my waking hours, I get an earful of negativity and snark on a daily basis.  If that’s all some people have to offer, then I want no part of it.  I’ll be content to just stay alone and do what I enjoy.  I would rather be lonely than made miserable by other people.  Anymore those seem to be my only options.

Routines

I did go and do some shopping on Black Friday.  That is, if grocery shopping counts.  Bought enough food to last several days.  I haven’t eaten fast food in a few days as I’m doing my own cooking again.  I’ve also had some of my psych meds doses lowered as I’ve been stabilizing for a few weeks.  I sleep a little less now.  I’m staying up later again but I really don’t drink that much caffeine.  I have all but given up coffee and I usually have only one or two soda pops a day.  I notice I feel less tense and short tempered since cutting back on the caffeine.

I’m back to eating less too.  For several weeks I was practically living off fast food and I have no doubt my health suffered.  Now that I’m back to cooking my own meals and eating healthier I am gradually noticing small improvements.  My stamina is beginning to come back, I am not as irritable, I am not as short tempered, my flare ups aren’t as bad, and I’m getting better sleep.  I think I have also lost a few pounds as my clothes are fitting a little looser.

I’m looking forward to winter even though I missed the summer with back problems and had more stress than usual during the fall.  I love the chilly weather, I don’t mind shoveling snow, I love spending time with family over Christmas, I enjoy watching college football games all day on New Year’s, and I like making cold weather food like potato and cheese soup and chili.  My Christmas shopping is done as I just did everything online this year.

I didn’t get what I wanted accomplished health wise this year.  I gained back much of the weight I had lost in 2014 and 2015.  Some of this came after I hurt my back and lost a summer’s worth of exercise.  Some of this came as I was more depressed and unstable this year than some of my previous years.  But for the last few weeks I’ve been having more of a sense of stability than I have had for months.  I’ve actually gotten some of my more healthy routines going again.  I still don’t socialize much in my apartment complex as I’m trying to avoid negative and depressing people.  I’m gradually getting back on Facebook.  I avoided it as much as I could for most of the fall.  But now that winter is almost here I’m getting to where I want to socialize to break up some of the colder, slower days.

Calmness and Routines With Mental Illness

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It’s been a pretty quiet last several days for me.  I haven’t been having much for depression and anxiety.  I admit to not getting out of my complex much for the last week or so.  Need to run some errands but I have been putting them off.  While I haven’t been suffering from depression or delusions lately, I also haven’t felt much need to leave my apartment complex this week.  I did spend some time outside this morning cleaning out my car and just enjoying the early fall.  The leaves are starting to turn even though it’s been warmer than normal for a week.  Sometimes no news is good news.

I see my psych doctor next week.  Things are going alright mentally so I don’t see much need to change anything medication wise.  I haven’t been taking the anti anxiety medication regularly for a few weeks.  I might even be able to go off the anti anxiety medication entirely.  I have made it through the traditionally worst parts of the year for myself.

October is usually a good time of year for me.  The weather is cooling off, football is in full effect, playoff baseball is going on, and I have always liked Halloween.  Some years I volunteer to hand out candy to kids that come to our complex.  We don’t let the kids go from room to room, so we just give them candy at the main entrance.  I think I’ll volunteer for it again this year.

Things have been going quite well for me.  I have taken steps to lower anxiety and stress in my life during the last few weeks.  I meditate some every day.  I am taking a daily multi vitamin.  I avoid stressful and irritable people.  I keep in contact with friends and family.  I don’t watch the cable news and have edited my news settings on my internet to where I don’t get much for bad news.  I don’t think I need to know and worry about every travesty and tragedy that goes on.  I also don’t think modern times are more violent and immoral, they’re merely more televised.  If it’s not happening locally I try not to worry about it as there really isn’t much I can do about things happening halfway across the world.

All in all things have settled down and stabilized during the last few weeks.  I feel mentally stable and content.  It’s been going well and I see no reason for things to not continue to go well.

Resolving Lingering Problems

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Found out I’m getting my new carpet in the apartment next week.  I have started rearranging and cleaning my apartment so the work can go faster.  I still have another day or two of work before the place is ready to go when the work crew gets here.  I imagine I’ll have to vacate my apartment for a day or two while work is being done.  But I have needed new carpet for years.  Hopefully this can get done quickly.

I am now completely adjusted to my new medications after being on the new plan for four months.  I definitely feel a positive change in my mental health.  I am slower to anger and less apt to fall into depression.  I have fewer hallucinations.  The only time I have hallucinations is when I’m under high stress.  I don’t just go out and wander nearly as much as I used to.  While I am doing better mentally I did gain a lot of weight after hurting my back.  Too little activity and too much comfort food.  Since my back finally healed up a month ago I have recommitted to eating healthier and getting more exercise.  I have given up sugared drinks and most unhealthy eating out.  When I do eat out, it’s usually sub sandwiches or wraps at a deli.  I’m still rebuilding my stamina after two months of inactivity.  It is a slow and frustrating process.  When I was rearranging my apartment I had to take more breaks than I am used to.  It’s going to take a long time to get back to where I was before my car accident I think.

Speaking of car accident, I got my settlement from the accident a few days ago.  I put most of it into savings as I pretty much already have most of what I want.  I did buy some used books from amazon.  They were some books I had my eyes on for awhile but was waiting until the settlement cleared.  These will be my fall reading.  I got lazy about reading when my back was hurting.  I’m only now starting to get back into the reading routine.  My car is still running well even though I still don’t drive as much.  I guess since I became more content with my life and what I already have, I haven’t felt the need to go a lot of places and spend a lot of money.  Buying books on amazon is the most frivolous purchase I have made in months.  I just no longer feel the need to own a lot of things. I’ve been a minimalist for probably two years.  It certainly makes it easier to clean my apartment and keep track of things.  I am glad to no longer have to deal with clutter and junk.  I refuse to be like those people on ‘Hoarders.’

This month of August has involved tying up loose ends and resolving long standing problems.  I’m scheduled to get my carpet and blinds replaced.  I got my settlement from the car accident.  My back is healed.  I’m back to exercising and eating healthier.  I made it through the hottest parts of summer with fewer mental health problems than previous years.  I’m adjusted to my new psych medications.  I’m back to contacting my friends and family more often.  I’m making a regular thing out of this blog.  I’m thankful for the messages I get from you readers.  I know I’m not always diligent about responding to everyone who writes to me.  But thank you everyone who has read this blog and thank you everyone for the words of encouragement.  Maybe I am making a positive difference with this blog.

 

Feeling Good With Mental Illness

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Been feeling pretty good for the last few weeks.  I haven’t had my traditional summer break down.  Hopefully I can get through the next couple weeks without any issues.  I usually start feeling better in early September with the passing of the warmest weather of summer.  I never have dealt well with the heat of summer.  I had problems with summer heat even before I had a mental illness diagnosis.  I have always enjoyed winter and spring more than summer.

It might help that I really haven’t been outside much this summer.  When I do exercise it’s usually walking the hallways of my apartment complex.  I didn’t go outside much this summer so I was never truly exposed to the heat and humidity.  I have driven less this summer and driving does sometimes cause me aggravation.  I definitely try to avoid driving anywhere when I’m going through excessive paranoia and depression.

I think the change in psych medications has helped me greatly this summer.  I was having flare ups every several weeks before I switched over.  Haven’t had any prolonged breakdowns since.  I switched over to a medication my DNA testing said would really benefit me.  I know I have been less physically active but I have also been more mentally stable this summer than previous years.  It’s a pity that I have to choose between physical health and mental stability.  But years ago my only options would be long term hospitalization with no way to alleviate my symptoms or homelessness.

In spite my previous problems I am still hopeful for the future.  Of the three medications I am currently on, two of them didn’t exist even five years ago.  The DNA tests that told me what medications would be most effective didn’t exist until recently.  When I was first diagnosed in 2000 we had to try medications at random and hope that something took.  We were wandering in the dark in that regard.  I am glad that I wasn’t born in 1930 instead of 1980 with this diagnosis.  Back then my only treatments may have been long term hospitalizations and electroshock therapy.  As it is I can essentially live alone, granted with a government sponsored disability pension and taxpayer sponsored medical treatment.  But it could be that this route is cheaper than long term hospitals like the 1950s.  Being on anti psych medication, having a small routine, having enough money to cover food, rent, and minor entertainment, living on my own, etc. is certainly more humane than being long term hospitalized, prison, homeless, or dead.  For most of human history I would have been dead with this illness before my 36th birthday.  As it is my worst problems now are occasional flare ups and my sleep apnea.  I am thankful for medical science and it’s advances.  I probably have a shorter life expectancy with this mental illness than I would normally, but I plan on staying around for awhile and seeing what I can accomplish in spite of this illness.

When I first applied for disability insurance ten years ago, I pretty much thought my life was over.  I thought I would be regulated to a short and brutal life of being anonymous, poor, tormented, and unknown outside of family and a few friends.  I didn’t plan on writing a blog about the experiences I’ve had over the years.  But even with this diagnosis I didn’t want to waste my talents.  I didn’t want my losing my shot at a career and a family to have been in vain.  I didn’t want this mental illness to destroy everything.  That’s why I blog as much as I do.  I suppose if I knew anything about making videos I would start a small youtube channel about life with a mental illness.  But that is probably a future project.

 

Stability and Moving Into Summer

It’s been three months since I had my last psychotic breakdown.  I have been on a different medication since.  It is working better than my previous medication.  I am more optimistic, more social, less depressed, less irritable, and I haven’t had hallucinations in three months.  The only true negative of the last several weeks was the back injury that made me inactive for three weeks.  I can lay on my stomach and get up now.  But I won’t sleep on my back in a traditional bed until I no longer have back pain.  I’ve gotten used to sleeping in a recliner.  I’ve gotten used to going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier.  I’m usually up by 6:30 in the morning.  When I was in a bed I usually wasn’t awake until 8:00.  I haven’t pulled any all nighters in a month.  I think part of my stability comes from more consistent sleep.  I know problems are coming when my sleep patterns change, especially when I get less sleep.

Traditionally late summers have always been tough for me.  I usually start feeling more irritable than usual in early July.  Usually it builds until I have a break in late summer, often in late August to early September.  Both times I went to a mental hospital I went in early September.  I have always been anxious, short tempered, and irritable from late July to mid September.  I don’t know if it’s because of the heat or if I subconsciously have bad memories of going back to school.

Last year I had a mini breakdown in early July but got through August without much problem.  The major break last year came in early October.  I also sometimes have a breakdown a few days before Christmas.  The holidays are traditionally an overwhelming and stressful time. I intentionally avoid malls and box stores in November and December.  I can’t stand the sensory overload from the decorations, bell ringers, and piped in Christmas music.  I have had to skip Thanksgiving at least twice in recent years.

I am not sure why traditionally happy times always make me depressed, sad, and irritable.  Maybe because I don’t like being told how to feel or think even on a good day.  I didn’t even like teachers telling me what to think in grade school.  Perhaps I have too strong of an independent streak.  I have never been capable of just gone along to get along. That has caused me a great deal of grief over the years.  It has caused me lots of problems in school and the workplace.  I never understood why people accept things they know to be questionable, senseless, and wrong.  I have never been able to accept something I believe to be senseless or false.  That alone has gotten me labeled a malcontent and having a bad attitude.  But I am simply unable to shut down my mind and just be an obedient sheep.  I’m sure I was quite a headache to some of my teachers, bosses, and parents when I was growing up.  I just had to know why things were done as they were.  I was that precocious child who was always asking ‘why’, even with complete strangers.  But somebody has to keep asking questions and challenging the status quo.  And I guess that I am one of those somebodies.

Ongoing Readjustments

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I’ve now been working through medication changes for over three weeks.  I see my psych doctor again next week to see if there are any other adjustments that need to be made.  With the newer setup I am noticing changes that are requiring adjustments to the life I had carved out for myself over the previous two to three years.

I now don’t need as much sleep.  Most nights I can get by on six to seven hours and I’m more likely to sleep through an entire night.  I used to wake up at least once in the middle of the night every night.  Even before I became mentally ill I didn’t sleep all the way through a night.  While I am a little slower to get going in the morning I have no other problems with my morning routine.

I read much more again.  For over a year the books on my shelf were gathering dust simply because I wasn’t reading.  For me not to read means something isn’t right.  I haven’t ever needed encouragement to read.  Instead I had to be encouraged to put down the book and socialize.  But I ordered three books through amazon this month and read one of them already.  I have read parts of several other books too in the last few weeks.  For months before this current medication change I would do only audiobooks or educational programs on youtube.  But I’m getting to where I want to read again.  I even went to the library today for the first time in almost a year.  Kind of odd being a writer and not spending time in a library, but that was my reality for most of the last year.

I’m even watching more tv but playing fewer computer games.  Normally I wouldn’t celebrate watching tv.  But for months I found most tv mind numbing and stupid.  I found it so annoying I couldn’t stand to have it on even as background noise.  I still find most tv shows dumb but I don’t find them irritating.  I still haven’t brought myself to try to watch cable news.  But the press only presents bad news because that is what we as humans are drawn toward.  I think we pay more attention to bad news or threats because it is hard wired into our genes.  I don’t watch the news, haven’t for years.  If there is anything I really need to know I’m going to find out, cable news or not.  Besides almost no one I know under age 40 gets their news from traditional sources.

I’m to where I actually want to socialize again.  I am finding myself leaving my apartment more often during the day and for longer periods of time.  I have found a writers’ group that meets twice a month at my local library.  I’ll go check that out next week.  I’m even toying with the thoughts of getting involved in my old writers’ group and mental illness support group again.  I haven’t been involved in either one for two years so most of those contacts are rusty and dusty.  But I don’t suppose it would take too much to get back in.

I’m also on the lookout for writers’ conventions in my home state.  I used to belong to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild.  But I let that membership lapse about two years ago.  Looking back on things, it seems like most my socializing and extra activities fell apart around two to three years ago.  I had my last round of medications changes in early 2014.  The meds I went on then may have helped me lose weight but I lost a lot of social skills and mental stability.

I have not worked on a regular basis for a few years.  I’ve done jobs for the family and temporary work but nothing I had to regularly go in for awhile.  At this point in my life my confidence in my ability to do good work and navigate workplace politics is gone.  If I could navigate the workplace I would be open to going back to work fifteen to twenty hours a week.  It is definitely a blow to your pride and ego to know you did extremely well in school only to get mental illness that won’t allow you to hold even a minimum wage job.  I wouldn’t mind going back to work if I thought I could handle it mentally.  It does get boring at times not having a routine and not feeling connected to anything.  That is why I have zero patience for any one who complains about their job.  Not having a job is worse than having a bad one and not being able to support yourself is even worse.

I actually get bored not having anywhere to go and not having many friends nearby.  I didn’t used to get this way for months.  There would be days I was just content to not leave my apartment at all, especially in the winter.  But I actually want to socialize and be out among people again.  I might even have to go to the movies again just to be among large groups of people again.  I have almost forgotten what that was like.

Being more easily bored, wanting to socialize, wanting to join a writers’ group, reading a lot more, and even toying with the thought of finding a part time job are some of the changes I am trying to manage after three weeks of a medications change.  These are adjustments to my previous lifestyle and they are good adjustments to have to make.