I’d Rather Be Eccentric and Interesting than Acceptable and Boring

 

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Still getting out of my apartment a couple times a day and spending a few minutes socializing with my neighbors.  I still find normal conversation boring and mundane, but I tolerate it like getting stuck in traffic because I’m expected to.  Most people I have met can tell right away I’m not like most people.  I don’t enjoy talking only about the weather, sports, how much I hate my job, how idiotic my coworkers and neighbors are, politics, etc.  I’d much rather talk philosophy, poetry, history, tech advances, science, international news than talk about the weather or my work.  Half of the time when I’m listening to someone prattle on about the same things for the hundredth time, I have to remind myself to fake interest and act like this conversation is actually fascinating.  I hate to say it, but I find some people mundane and even boring.

Most people go through life without taking any real risks or standing out in any way.  Seems that many people when they were teenagers were content with their C’s and D’s on their report cards, going to ball games on Friday nights, and spending their weekends trying to get laid or getting drunk and stoned.  I never saw what was so great about being normal.  I was that smart guy on the football team that knew right away he needed to do his homework because there was no way he was going to get a scholarship.  I was the guy who considered it a personal failure every time he didn’t get an A on a test.  I was the guy who’s best friend was a girl.  She still is my best friend.  Even though I got good grades, I was still sometimes skeptical of what of my teachers taught me. I knew some really smart kids in high school and college who did poorly grade wise because they were skeptical of the teaching but didn’t play the game well enough to get the good grades.  I was rather skeptical of a lot of what I was taught, particularly in the non science and math fields.  But I gave the answers I figured the teachers were looking for while doing my own reading and research during the weekends and summers.  I still spent time with my friends, but my friends had the same nerdy likes and interests I did.

Developing a mental illness when I already had a reputation for being eccentric and odd didn’t help my social life any.  But considering how small my windows of opportunity for socializing with like minded people were in my youth (before the internet got really big), my social life was going to be lousy anyway.  My parents used to worry about how little I socialized and how little I enjoyed school and church activities.  It’s not that I am anti-social, I can be social for hours on end with like minded and interesting people.  I just can’t stand chit chat and normal conversation.  I find it too restricting and too predictable.  I found out pretty early on that most people were quite predictable if you spent enough time around them.  People in general don’t like change.  In fact, most people are scared senseless of changes.  I learned this when I was telling people about science and tech advances and what was actually going right in the world.  I got almost no positive responses out of anyone besides my mother, and I think she was doing that mainly to humor me.  Most people told me I was a liar or we would never live to see these advances.  Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the rise of the internet, the rise of genetically modified crops, the decline of communism, the decline of network and cable television, the rise and fall of CDs, DVDs, movie rental places, and most brick and mortar companies in direct competition with internet companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook, etc.  Even me, living on disability pension, can enjoy most of these advances that not even the richest man in the world could have enjoyed in 1985.  Do not tell me we aren’t living in cool times.

I know most people reminisce about past eras and would rather live then than in their current times.  I know people who would have loved to live in Medieval times.  I couldn’t do without toilet paper long enough to be burned at the stake as a heretic to live then.  Others pined for the Old West era.  Many places in the Old West had violent crime and homicide rates higher than even modern day Chicago.  I’d probably get shot for sneezing during a poker game.

I admit that I was always one of these people who wondered what life in the future would be like.  I guess if I am nostalgic, it’s for things that haven’t happened yet or might not happen at all.  I imagine a few hundred years in the future if our civilization has built colonies on other planets, solved poverty, ended war, ended pollution, have intelligent machines, etc., that there will be people who will be envious of us living in the early 21st century when many things started coming together and poverty, sickness, war, etc. became less and less.  And yet most people walking the streets today are oblivious to the wonders going on in the here and now.  It’s for reasons like that I am glad that I am not normal.  I don’t wish normal upon myself or any of my friends and family.  I love being eccentric and looking at life a different way.  I may not be highly accomplished or influential, but at least I don’t completely blend in to the background.

Donations to Expand ‘A Life Of Mental Illness’

I've decided to do an experiment to see if I can get a little money for doing this blog. I have sold hard copy books of poetry and mental illness essays that were the inspiration for this blog in the past. Being paid for this work would be a dream come true

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September 7, 2017

Haven’t been up to much lately.  Still sleeping mostly during the days and spending most of my nights wide awake.  So far it seems to be working.  I’ll have to make a point to be up earlier as the exterminator is coming to spray apartments tomorrow morning.  So I have been spending much of this evening cleaning up my place.  Even though I have been stable mental health wise, I did allow some clutter like dirty clothes and books pile up around the house.  Still have a little more to do.  But I’ll be up much of the night and it’s things I can do without waking the neighbors.

Haven’t been reading as much as I would like to lately.  Maybe the mind needs some time to absorb and process all the new information I’ve been taking in the last several months.  I haven’t even read that many online articles the last few weeks.  But I have always done my best reading in the winters.

I can tell the days are starting to get shorter and cooler.  And I enjoy it.  Won’t be too long until winter is here.  From Christmas until it gets really hot in early July have always been my favorite times of year.  Spring is usually my favorite season.  I even like winter, especially since it’s more socially acceptable to spend a lot of time at home and sleep more during the cold weather.  If I ever leave Nebraska, one thing I will miss is the distinct changes in the seasons.

Haven’t watched that much for TV this week.  I still try to avoid cable news channels as they usually report only bad news and nothing on what’s going well.  But good news doesn’t sell like bad news and mass media certainly isn’t a public service.  I guess what news and TV I do get is mostly internet based anymore.  Like many people I’d feel naked without good internet connections.  Maybe avoiding bad news and rude people are making me more stable than usual.  Sure it kills my social life, but if a person is going to be in a foul mood most of the time then I’m going to avoid that person as much as possible.  I’ve quit jobs in the past because of coworkers and bosses always being negative and angry.  I mean, we’re stuck doing a job together, make the most of it already.

Haven’t heard much from friends either.  But I have been largely avoiding Facebook for over two weeks now.  And I feel quite a bit more calm and relaxed because of it.  It just makes me sad and irritated both to see my friends and family in foul moods in things they really can’t do anything about.  Yes, it is possible to feel sad for someone and irritated with them at the same time.

It’s just been really quiet on my end for the last several weeks.  The insect spray man coming tomorrow is essentially the highlight of my day tomorrow and he’ll be here for only a minute or two.  But I should get the rest of my cleaning finished.  So long.

No News Is Good News

Been a few days since I last wrote.  But then again, I haven’t had very much drama to write about.  It’s been quite quiet for the last several weeks for me.  About the only thing I really do have to report is that I am getting a little more active with each passing day.  I spend more and more time outdoors too.  I plan on spending a lot of time outside on Monday as the eclipse is coming right through the town I live in.  I am just going to watch it from my front yard.  I probably won’t be able to go much of anywhere tomorrow as my town is expecting several thousand out of town visitors for Monday.  I’m just going to stay home tomorrow.

I’m sleeping alright.  But my best sleep still comes in the morning anymore.  Most nights I’ll be up quite late.  While this puts a damper on my social life, it doesn’t seem to be effecting my mental stability any.  I’m usually up and going by noon no matter how late I stay awake.  I am so glad I can do this blog from home and I’m not constrained by office hours.

So far I have made it through the summer with no real issues.  This would be a first for me in several years.  And I am enjoying it.  I know I still have the potential for a few rough weeks before the weather cools off for good.  Sometimes no news is good news.

Money, Budgeting, and Mental Health Issues

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Been kind of housebound for the last couple days.  Fortunately not because of depression or anxiety, but because of the “end of the month blues.”  So I pretty much stay home and keep in contact with people via Facebook and cell phone.  As a result of staying home so much, I’ve been able to avoid rude people.  I am pleasantly surprised when I meet polite people who know what I’m talking about when I refer to science, tech, or science fiction.  One example was the pizza delivery man who recognized that I was playing Skyrim on my Play Station.  He even asked me if I had the expansion packs.  Unfortunately no, I’ll have to save up for those.

Lately I spent some money to promote the blog.  I think it’s working.  My friend Matt, the high school history and economics teacher, keeps telling me he thinks it’s possible that I could get picked up by a large service if I keep at this blog.  Personally, I think that’s a small possibility  A very small one.  But if I was doing this mental illness blog for money, I would have given up a long time ago.  As long as I can keep on my budget and stay out of debt, I don’t care if I make money from this blog.

Even though I’m low on money with a few days of the month left, I was fortunate enough to have enough food and supplies built up to carry me over the finish line.  It’s the first month in a long time that I ran low before the end of the month.  Normally I’m better at budgeting than this.  But August is a new month and I can start over.  I’m glad I didn’t have to go into debt to make ends meet this month.  Some people I know can’t claim that. I am so glad to not be in debt.  It makes living on disability insurance much less stressful. And if a person were to really look at it, one can live pretty cheap if you plan ahead.

Because I have no debts and a few emergency supplies, I can ride out months like this with unforeseen expenses and being too free with the money.  I probably shouldn’t have ordered pizza delivery when watching the US national soccer team those two times.  I probably shouldn’t have bought those two computer games.  Maybe I shouldn’t have promoted the blog.  But I won’t look back with regret. I had some reserves in case of emergencies (or frivolous spells) like what I just went through. Of course I’ll have to rebuild those reserves, which won’t take long. But I am glad I had those reserves built up months ago in case months like this happened.

Thankfulness Despite Mental Illness

I’ve spent almost twenty years dealing with mental illness problems.  Even though I have now spent more than half my life dealing with these problems, I am still pretty happy and content with how my life turned out.  Sure I would be better off losing some weight or having more friends in my hometown, but overall I’m enjoying my life even though I have to deal with schizophrenia.  At least I enjoy it the 99 percent of the time that I’m not having problems with hallucinations, delusions, and excessive anxiety.  I think the older I have gotten, the more I have learned how to work around the illness.  I do have to avoid stressful people and situations.  I have to do most of my shopping either online or in early morning hours to avoid crowds.  I won’t have the high paying and prestigious career like my brother has.  I will never have a wife and kids or the big house in a good suburb.  But as I have aged and seen in my own self and others with mental illness, I could be a lot worse.  If I was born in 1920 instead of 1980, I probably would have been living permanently in a mental hospital or homeless.  That is why I am thankful that medications and social safety nets exist that didn’t exist even fifty years ago.  Some of the medications I’m on didn’t exist even ten years ago.

Even though I don’t have a lot of nearby friends and don’t make much money, I’m still pretty happy overall.  I have been able to pursue what makes me happy and content despite being on disability insurance and living in low income housing.  Happiness for me is talking with friends over the phone, or participating in the futurist groups I’m part of on Facebook, or just grilling cheap steaks and watching college football on chilly fall afternoons.  I am fortunate that I have simple tastes.  Even though both my parents were medical professionals and made good money, they didn’t spoil my brother and I.  We were expected to either have after school and summer jobs or be involved in school activities year round.  I wasn’t uncommon for me to play a football game on Friday nights and spend my Saturday afternoons working as a shelf stocker at a general store when I was in high school.  During the summers, my brother usually reported to work at a fast food place every morning by 4 am to provide spending money so he could get his engineering degree.  I didn’t understand why my parents expected so much out of us when we were growing, but now I do.  And I’m glad for it.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  If I were able to raise children, I would be the same way.

If anything, I am thankful for what I have even if it isn’t what it could have been.  I’m glad that I can write about my experiences.  I write for those who can’t speak for themselves and to let others with mental illness know that they are not alone and things can get better.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of time but things can become quite stable even with a mental illness.

Adjusting to Summer

Been staying near the complex and avoiding the early summer heat the last few days.  Bought groceries early this week so, in theory, I don’t have to leave the house for the next several days.  I’ll probably have to stay at home tomorrow as I’ll be getting a new air conditioner and thermostat.  My old air conditioner was almost forty years old and it broke down two weeks ago.  So I’ve been using lots of fans and a portable air conditioner since.  I’m glad that this problem will be solved soon.

I’ve been having a lot of issues hanging over my head for weeks that just seem to take longer then they should to get resolved.  My sink was fixed a couple weeks ago.  I started a new medication a week ago.  I’ve been sleeping in a recliner for a week now as my lower back has been giving me pain.  But I’ve been feeling quite stable mentally for the last several days.  I don’t want to sleep all the time anymore.  I’m usually awake quite early instead of sleeping until noon.  I’m taking better care of myself.  And I’m making a point to get out of my apartment to socialize with my neighbors for at least a few minutes every day.  The socializing is going kind of rough as there aren’t any people in my apartment complex who share my interests or likes.  Looking back on it, having three friends in here die within six months a couple years ago really effected me.  I lost a lot of good conversations after that.  So it’s tough finding things to talk about with people anymore.

My Journey To Being An Advocate For The Mentally Ill

My birthday is coming up in a few days.  I’ll be 37 years old this year.  That would have made me a senior citizen in the Stone Age.  Of course if I would have developed schizophrenia at most points in human history, it probably would have been a death sentence.  As it is I have found what works and what doesn’t in my life with mental illness.

I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in the autumn of 2000.  I was in the second year of my pre med studies in college.  Even though I had been having problems with depression and anxiety for a few years before, I was still able to do well in school and keep up a strong front.  I still don’t know how I did it.  But in my second year of college, it all collapsed.  I couldn’t handle stress anymore.  I was having constant panic attacks.  I would have breakdowns where I called home and yelled at my parents at least once a week.  Looking back on it, I should have gone to the mental hospital right then and there and not tried to gut out college at the same time.  As it was I withdrew from college at midterm of the spring semester and took a few months to adjust the treatments and pull myself together.  After the disaster that my second year of college was, I knew I’d never get into any med school with my grades.  So I switched over to business because, let’s face it, everything involves money and commerce.  I still thought I could be employable in the right situation after college.

During the last few years of college I became interested in economics and finance.  I applied for several jobs like financial planner, insurance sales, insurance underwriter, loan officer at a few banks, etc.  I took the obsession I previously had with science and was able to transfer it to business and economics.  It paid off to be curious for me.  I graduated in spring 2004 but, like many college seniors, I had several job interviews but no offers when I left school.  I didn’t realize just how common that was until I started talking to people over the internet a few years later.

After a few failed attempts at careers in various fields, (retail sales, academia, manufacturing), I applied for disability insurance.  This was in 2006.  I had just lost my job at the university and been forced to leave the masters’ program.  Here I was on a waiting list for disability, on a waiting list for low income housing, with no job, no confidence, and no money.  If it wasn’t for my parents help for the first half of 2006, I would have never made rent on my apartment.  But that wasn’t all for 2006.  My longtime college girlfriend and I broke up and I failed at a couple minimum wage jobs, one of which was at Goodwill.  If you can’t succeed at Goodwill, then you are really screwed up (or so I thought).  In the late summer I checked myself into the mental health hospital.  Stayed there for a week.  By this time I was at my lowest ebb.  I had no job.  My illness wasn’t allowing me to hold a job.  I had no real income.  I was living off food stamps though no mess ups of my own.  I had no idea when social security was coming through. I was on high risk insurance that was costing my parents a lot of money so I could stay on my meds.  I never could have afforded them on my own.  I came to the conclusion I would never hold a career because of my mental illness.  I came to the second conclusion that I would never marry and have a family because of my mental illness.  I was really sad and depressed during this entire time.  I really thought I’d never be happy or amount to anything ever again.  I’m glad I didn’t cross the line into becoming suicidal at this time.

Those rough years of my mid to late twenties when I came to the conclusions I would never hold meaningful employment or have a family really sucked.  But they were also when I was writing a lot, granted not as focused as I am now.  Before I got serious about my blog I wrote hundreds of poems, largely in the style of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, and I also did complete rough drafts for two novels.  The novels were nothing really special, just kind of like Jack Kerouac for Millennials.  I was working on notes for a science fiction novel at this time too.  I also read every day to try to help me find a literary voice.  I read dozens of authors, ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Ayn Rand, Chuck Philhanuak to John Grisham, Alexandre Dumas to Mark Twain, Adam Smith to Nietcheze, etc.  I tried to teach myself Spanish at the time as well, but the only Spanish I know is how to ask for directions and order simple meals.  But as my ‘traditional’ side was falling apart, I was finding other ways to find meaning in my life besides work and dating.

I started writing down my thoughts and experiences with mental illness in my late twenties.  I was submitting some of my poems to be published in literary magazines.  I got a few of them published but never made any money.  I eventually wrote a few dozen short essays about life with a mental illness.  I was reading The Federalist Papers at the time and kind of modeled the book of mental health essays on that.  I put the files on a print on demand service.  I sold a few dozen of those books, mostly to friends, family, and interested mental health facilities.  After tasting a little success with those essays, I thought they might make good blog entries.  And my first few blog entries were from that original book.  Since it’s been several years since I updated that book, I probably ought to rewrite it and repost it.  And since I now have a dozens of blog entries on the subject of living with mental illness, I definitely have new material for another edition.

I started blogging through wordpress in 2012 shortly after I left my last ‘traditional’ job.  I didn’t get much for visitors early on because I had no focus for the blog and I wasn’t posting regularly.  In early 2013 I decided to focus the blog specifically on mental illness.  My audiences have grown slowly but steadily over the last few years.  I started a Facebook page to promote the blog.  I also have a patreon account a few months ago and I already have a sponsor through there.  And I’ve also made a little money since I monetized this blog.  I’m not breaking even yet with what I spent on advertising this blog, but it’s getting closer all the time.  I recently broke 14,000 all time visitors from 100 different countries.  And this is with only four years of work, a microscopic advertising budget, a niche topic, and 50 percent of the world’s population still not online.

I’ll be 37 in a few days.  And I already had a larger reach with my writing works than I ever thought possible when I first seriously started writing in 2004.  That’s been only thirteen years.  I think I’m going to keep at this and see what I can develop with this blog and my writings over the next thirteen years.  I say all of this to point out that young people in their late teens and early twenties shouldn’t sell themselves short at all.  At age 23 I would have been content to be a loan officer at a bank or an insurance salesman.  But I know I wouldn’t have been content doing such work.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m really good at.  And let’s face it, in this day and age a person can make money doing almost anything thanks to the exposure of the internet if they put in the time and lots of effort to get noticed.  I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could as a writer thanks to the internet, especially when I started out I was just writing poetry out in notebooks.  And now after running this blog for four years and getting some audience and dozens of positive emails, I know I’m only scratching the surface of what can be done.  I never would have thought this possible when I first applied for disability insurance.  Mental illness is one of the few things that is still discriminated against with little to no protest.  I intend to be part of changing that.  I’m not going away.  The mentally ill bloggers and you tubers aren’t going away either.  We will not be silent and suffer needlessly anymore.  Consider this a declaration of war against mental illness stigma.