Finding Happiness In Being A Hermit

Been staying close to home lately.  Still sleeping more than I would like.  But I guess I need it.  I enjoy the longer nights.  Won’t be too long and the leaves will be turning and the weather will get cold.  Spend much of my weekends watching football and grilling my own home based tale gate.  Made bacon and cheddar brats last weekend.

Been feeling more stable lately.  Might be because I’m sleeping more and enduring less stress lately.  Haven’t heard from my neighbors much lately.  Sometimes drama gets started in these tight quarters and people have too much free time.  Even though I’m on disability I try to stay busy.  Some days it’s nothing more than reading science articles online or messing with my computer.  I still lift weights three days a week at least.  I’m noticing a difference after a few months of this.  I’ve been stable enough I haven’t had to adjust my meds for almost six months now.

So far this fall has gone pretty good even though I don’t socialize much in person.  It gets boring hearing my neighbors complain about things they won’t or can’t do anything about.  I have my problems, sure, but I don’t feel I have a duty to share them with everyone whether they want to listen or not.  I can only handle a few minutes of complaints, gossip, or drama before I’m ready to go back home.  I spent much of my younger years as a pessimist.  I’m not going back.  If I have to be a hermit to avoid negative and toxic people, so be it.

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End of Winter, Maybe

Getting out of the apartment more than once a day now.  For awhile during the fall and winter, there would be times I’d go entire days without leaving my apartment.  But I guess that spending my days chatting with online friends, reading articles, and messing with computer games and programs gets stale after awhile.  A change was due.  Right now much of my region of the country is getting bad blizzards.  I personally have only a couple inches of snow, some ice, but terrible winds.  Fortunately it isn’t as cold as it could be, otherwise it would be Ice Age revisited.  And this happened right as most of the snow we’ve had since before Christmas was melted.  But, this being a late winter blizzard, should be melted soon.  Then we’ll worry about flooding.  So it goes.

Now that I actually want to leave my apartment and venture out, I can’t because of weather.  I’ve been bound to my town all winter just because it was too risky to travel.  My car doesn’t do well in snow.  So I pretty much stay inside most of the time.  I do force myself outside every few days just to get what little sunshine and fresh air I can.

Been having a few minor flare ups of irritability and depression lately.  Fortunately I’ve been able to constructively deal with these.  I do have to sleep more and severely limit my caffeine.  I haven’t had coffee in over a week.  While I do feel less irritable, I do sleep more and feel more scattered.  Fortunately I don’t get much for back pain anymore.  Maybe I have lost more weight.  I exercise some every day.  And I make it a point to stand up or lay down every couple hours so as to break up the boredom and long days.  Been a tougher than usual winter.  Physically it’s been tough because of the snow, cold, wind, and lack of physical activity.  It hasn’t been too terrible mentally.  The last several days have been the toughest.  But I’ve been socializing more too.  And I admit I get more irritated with rude people than I should.  I almost never respond to rude people except to avoid them at all costs.  I have enough going on already without dealing with unnecessary rudeness.

The unexplainable aches and pains are becoming less common.  I guess I’m taking more preventative measures now.  I no longer sit for more than two hours at a time. I sleep in my recliner half of the night to rest my lower back.  I sleep lying down so not to get leg cramps from sitting too long.  I take hot showers at least twice a day now, mainly to keep my joints warm and loose.  Sometimes a few minutes of hot running water on my knees, lower back, and hands will work more wonders than even a couple Advil.  And making a point to get up every couple hours to do even simple things like walk to the kitchen to get a cup of water or walking to check my mail every evening can keep my joints loose.  I think one of the problems I was having with my back and unexplainable aches was that I didn’t move around enough.  I went through a state of excessive paranoia and anxiety for much of 2017 and all of 2018.  I was scared to drive my car, I was scared to talk to my neighbors, I was scared to leave my apartment after dark, I was scared to walk my neighborhood, and I was even scared to check my mail.  Most of my mail is junk mail now that I do everything online almost.  The 1 percent that wasn’t junk mail was usually from social security or my landlady.  I always felt a tinge of anxiety with those letters, and any time I was called before anyone in authority.  I’ve had too many bad experiences with short sighted, heartless, and irritable people in authority over me.  I just don’t trust authority to not abuse their power and influence anymore.  And, yes, it is unnerving and scary.

Winter is almost over, at least according to the calendar.  And it isn’t happening too soon.  I’m beginning to get cabin fever real bad.  I guess even strong people have their breaking points.  I am convinced I would feel much better when the weather warms up and there are options to how to spend my days.

Improvements

It’s been a few days since I saw my psych doctor.  We decided to add a third medication.  I think it’s starting to work.  I’m getting a little more active with each passing day, I’m starting to wake up earlier, I’m feeling less depressed, I’m feeling less paranoid, and I’m getting out of my apartment more often.  So I think the psych appointment was a good idea.  I see him again in a week.

I’m surprised at how fast I’m improving.  I haven’t felt this decent in a while.  I hope things keep improving.

Socializing and Decreased Hallucinations

Now that I have my medication situation under control I’ve been easing back into more of a normal type of life.  At least it’s as normal as a life of mental illness is going to get.  One of the aspects of my life that is starting to resemble normal is my social life.  Just last week I spent two hours outdoors chatting with two of my neighbors. Three days ago I chatted with a third neighbor for over an hour. Today I chatted one on one with another neighbor for almost two hours.  Those are the three longest conversations I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family in months.  I still make a point of calling my parents at least twice a week.  It’s not just Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day I talk to my parents.  I still go to counseling twice a month with the same counselor I’ve had for the last year and a half.  We have a pretty good thing going.  I also have a good deal going with my psych doctor.  I do kind of worry because both of these men are getting close to retirement age.  So I’ll be in the market for new therapists and doctors within a few years.  I’m so glad the subject of DNA testing came up with my psych doctor.  The medication I changed to was one my DNA tests said would work really well for me.  So the DNA testing has already paid off.  We might make another change within a few weeks.  But things seem to be working well enough now we might not even need to make a second change.

I’m also noticing I can now go entire days without feeling irritable.  I don’t even really get irritable while driving.  Since I usually drive a little slower than speed limit, especially in town, I usually get passed and sometimes cut off.  But neither really bothers me that much anymore.  And I’m beginning to drive more again.  For several months I drove only when I had to run errands or to visit my family.  I rarely made spontaneous trips.  And being in an auto accident several months ago didn’t help any.  Even though I wasn’t at fault in that accident I lost some confidence in my driving ability.  It’s now coming back.  I haven’t set out on a long road trip yet but I probably will this summer.  I try to take at least one several hour road trip every summer.

I’m also having fewer auditory hallucinations.  For me, my hallucinations were almost always voices. Occasionally I hear foot steps and doors closing that no one else does, which can be quite creepy. Voices and foot steps are the two biggest hallucinations I have.  If one were to watch me closely when I’m alone, you could see my lips move and I would be speaking under my breath. That’s how the hallucinations make themselves manifest. It no doubt looks very odd but hopefully it’s not as painfully obvious as some schizophrenic hallucinations.  I can have entire conversations with the voices and not even speak loud enough to be heard.  But since most of the voices are quite nasty and critical it’s not like the conversations are enriching or enjoyable.  But I’m getting to where I now have much more conversation with real flesh and blood people than just isolating and arguing with my hallucinations.

Getting To Some Kind Of Normalcy

After six weeks of being on a different medication I am now adapting to the changes brought about.  I usually don’t need as much sleep so I now usually wake up earlier.  I have found myself slightly more sensitive to caffeine.  So I usually shut off the coffee and black tea after four p.m. unless I want to be up most of the night.  I have been spending more time outdoors and restarted the exercise routine a few days ago.  I am still kind of rusty but I hadn’t been doing much exercise for three weeks because of the weather and medication changes.

I am also regaining some of my lost emotions. I have felt a little loneliness over the last few weeks.  For months I have been content to spend the vast bulk of my days in isolation with as little interaction as possible.  I never did well at socializing, especially growing up in a small farming village where most people didn’t share my type of interests.  But I am now wanting to socialize again.  I find myself leaving my apartment at least a few times a day.  Previously I used to leave my apartment only once or twice a day if at all.  I have had days I didn’t leave my apartment, especially in the winter. I also feel a little more happiness.  Used to be the only real feelings I had for a couple years were anger and quiet contentment.  I didn’t relax and feel happiness because I didn’t know how.  But the ability to feel happiness is beginning to come back.   I am now able to feel a little anger and irritation without fear of going psychotic.  I haven’t had a psychotic break since I changed my medication.  I switched back to an old medication I had been on for several years.  The DNA tests I took shown that this medication worked really well for me.  So it confirmed something I already suspected.  I’ll see my psych doctor again at the end of the month and we’ll look into changing a second medication then.  I knew this would be a long process when we started.  But it’s certainly better than having psychotic breakdowns every six weeks.

I admit my physical health and exercise has taken a lower priority since I started this medication change.  I have gained a few pounds in the last few weeks. My endurance has really dropped off. It’ll probably take several more exercise sessions before it really starts coming back. But I’m getting back into exercise again, especially since the weather is warming up.

 

Changing Meds and Other Changes

I started the process of changing to new medications a few days ago.  And I’m noticing some changes already.  I have found I actually need a little less sleep now.  Used to be I got 8 hours a night like clock work, now I need only 6 to 7 hours.  I have even been making a point to get out of my complex more.  Went to the park for an hour and chatted with a bunch of neighbors on Saturday.  Found out three tenants are moving out within a month. One of those tenants was the grumpiest and angriest man I ever met in my entire life.  I mentioned him in a previous blog.  He’s one of these old guys who doesn’t believe in mental illness.  He believed that people like me were just making these problems up because we “are lazy and don’t want to do any real work.”  I hate people like that.  Guys like that are petty people and just have to make everyone else miserable.  Needless to say I won’t miss this ornery old man.  His impending departure was the happiest news I have heard in weeks.

Got out quite a bit today.  It was quite warm here today, more like late spring than early spring.  Currently have a baseball game on in the back ground.  I enjoy watching baseball.  It is more relaxing than football, that’s why I enjoy it more.  I’ve been out more the last few days than the previous two weeks.  In addition to wanting to get out and about more I’ve been wanting to socialize more.  I actually felt lonely today for the first time in months.  I previously haven’t minded the solitude and have actually wanted it.  But now I’m starting to actually want to socialize.

I’ve been listening to more music too.  Found out I like some of the newer dance, techno, and dubstep music.  Normally an older guy like myself would like only music they grew up with.  But I have never cared about when music was made.  Good music is good music, I don’t care if it’s Mozart, Louis Armstrong, old Delta Blues, John Lennon, hard rock, hip hop, or techno.  I never did like these old guys who always complained about the “lousy kids.”  So I vowed at age thirteen that when I became an old guy myself, I’d go easier on the kids than my elders did.  Been watching a little more tv too.  I’ve been watching ‘Marco Polo’ on Netflix.  If you are turned off by violent shows, I don’t recommend it.  But it is a cool show about how different cultures interact with each other.  Another series with similar themes I’ve been rematching is ‘Hell on Wheels’, which is about the building of the first transcontinental railroad in America immediately after the Civil War.  I still watch ‘Star Trek’ every so often.  But with wanting to socialize outside my apartment more, I may be finding myself with less down time.  And that would definitely be a change.

Changing Medications

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Saw my psych doctor a few days ago.  We agreed that a change in medications is in order.  Neither one of us think the meds I was on for the last two years are as effective as they once were.  He had me do a DNA cheek swab to be tested to see what medications would be effective given my DNA. The results will be in probably by the time I see him again in two weeks.  The tests may not be perfect but they should give us a better idea of what will and won’t work.  But these tests weren’t even around when I was diagnosed fifteen years ago.  For most of my illness we were merely throwing darts in the dark hoping to hit on something that would work.  We were just guessing, especially in the first year. For now I am starting the process of switching back to one of my previous medications.  I was on that med for several years but wanted to switch because it was known to promote weight gain.  But it sure was effective.  It’s too bad I let the side effects sabotage my previous attempts at weight loss.  Looking back, I think I used the side effect as an excuse not to be serious about my health.

In spite my recent mental health problems I managed to lose over twelve pounds in the first month of tracking my eating and exercising.  I’m seeing now that keeping track of what I eat is the difference between losing weight and gaining weight.  I was simply unaware of how much I really ate when I wasn’t tracking.  I am one of these people who would sometime eat just out of boredom.  But that has changed.  For my diet I cook almost all of my meals and I severely limit carbs.  I don’t even keep bread in the apartment anymore, haven’t for almost six months.  The weight loss has been the bright spot of this last month.  And I haven’t been crazy about my exercising.  I usually just walk twenty minutes a day probably five or six days a week.  I intend to keep this up even while changing medications.