Feeling Decent and Keeping Occupied

Been feeling decent overall the last few days.  Still sleeping a lot but too much sleep is better than having breakdowns.  Even though I don’t leave my apartment for long periods of time, I still make it a point to stay active.  I have an exercise bike I ride a little bit every day.  And I have done arm weights three times a week for two months.  I’m starting to notice improvements even if they aren’t coming as fast as I would like.  But my health didn’t fall apart right away so it’s foolish to think I can gain it back immediately.  It’s going to be a long process and it’s one I’m glad I began.

Been listening to more music lately.  I renewed my subscription to Spotify a few months ago and I use it a little every day.  My PC got fixed a couple weeks ago.  I now have my primary gaming computer/backup to my Mac again.  As much as I enjoy my computers, I was feeling like I was naked in public while running my blogs and online interactions with no backups.  My PC took only a few days to fix.  But my depression and anxiety has been strong enough I couldn’t bring myself to go across town to get it fixed.  I finally had to sweet talk my dad into taking the computer to the shop when he was in town a few weeks ago.  And to get it picked up, I sweet talked my cleaning lady/personal assistant into picking it up.  It is tough for me to ask for help and admit weaknesses.

For most of my life I was the one who helped others out and voluntarily ran errands for family and friends.  I was kind of a taxi service for friends and family in high school and college.  I don’t remember how many times I ran friends across town or took them to restaurants when they wanted a break from the campus mess hall.  Many of my friends didn’t have cars when we were in high school and college.  And now I’m the one who asks for rides and delivery service because of the changing nature of my mental illness as I age.

I am convince people’s psychology does change with age.  Mine certainly has.  I look to avoid arguments and conflicts more now in my late 30s than I did even five years ago. I really no longer feel shame for wanting to be alone for long periods of time.  And I know sometimes I can step away from friends and family for several days and pick up where I left off.  A compliant of my romantic interests was that I was often too clingy and always wanted to be around my romance interests.  I understand why. I wasn’t being attentive, I was being smothering. No one was meant to be all things to anyone.  There are things I can talk with around family I won’t discuss with even close friends and vice versa.  It took me awhile to learn that I don’t have to ask any one person to be everything for me.  Mental illness stunted my social development in some ways.

In other ways it forced me to grow faster than most people.  And it certainly made me question my core beliefs and who I really was and what I really liked doing.  I am convinced had I never become mentally ill I would have never developed my ability as a writer and story teller.  I am probably better at communication with a mental illness than I would be without one.  I probably would be at a job I can’t stand because I would be too stubborn to quit and find something else.

I doubt I would have as wide a variety of interests had I remained mentally well.  I know I wouldn’t have spent so many years learning different subjects at the university of Youtube videos.  I have spent a shameful amount of time watching educational videos, science lectures, TED talks, and audiobooks on youtube over the last six years.  And the thing is, I could spend the rest of my life learning things and I wouldn’t feel like I learned enough and don’t need to learn anymore.  The more I learn, the more I realize there is even more out there.  Einstein once said to the effect that the universe is far more strange than we can imagine.  I’m learning that truth more and more with each passing day.

Overall I’m doing quite well.  Starting to settle into summer routines even though it feels like early spring outside.  I still have my bad moments, but at least they aren’t bad days now.  Even my flare ups aren’t as intense as they were in recent years.  My flare ups now involve more depression and less anger now.  But things are looking better with each passing day.

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Career, Family, and Mental Illness

I always wanted to have a great career in the medical science field.  I loved hearing stories about scientists like Einstein, Curie, Pasteur, Edison, etc. even as a small child.  One of the earliest books I remember reading was about Louis Pasteur and his ideas about germs.  I wanted to make good discoveries that would benefit people.  I wasn’t so concerned about becoming rich as long as I was making a positive difference.

As much thought as I put into my future career as a child I didn’t put much thought into marriage and family.  I figured I’d probably follow the same path my parents and grandparents did, meet someone a couple years after finishing high school and get married a few years later.  But I ran into problems with the beginnings of my mental illness while still in high school.  It was my best friend who suggested that I may have a serious mental illness rather than traditional teenage moodiness.  Turns out she was right even back then.

Since I was struggling to figure out the nuances of my mental illness and trying to keep my grades up in college, I swore off dating entirely the last three years I was in college.  I probably could have dated some but I thought I needed to devout all my time and energy to getting through college and my outside reading.  I also didn’t feel right about burdening a woman with my mental health problems while I was trying to figure them out for myself.

I have had flare ups on family members and close friends.  They were painful for me and no doubt painful to those who were catching the force of my breakdowns.  I would much prefer to have a mental illness that would allow me to break down and uncontrollably sob and weep.  But my illness, being what it is, doesn’t allow that.  I haven’t cried in over ten years about anything, not even at my grandparents’ funerals.  Unfortunately the way my mind is wired I have breakdowns where I’ll yell at and curse even those I care about the most.  And I refuse to put a girlfriend or wife through that.  I especially refuse to have a psychotic breakdown around children.  My brother has four kids, aged twelve, nine, seven, and five.  I haven’t had a breakdown around them and I avoid them when I am feeling shaky.  I have had to not attend Thanksgiving and Easter in years past because I was fearful of having a breakdown around my brother’s or cousins’ kids.  As it is I am the uncle who treats the kids essentially the same way I do adults and joke around with them.  I don’t want to ruin that.

I don’t have a wife or girlfriend or kids because of my mental illness.  It’s bad enough dealing with it on my own.  I refuse to take my problems out on anyone else if it can be avoided.  I know myself well enough that I know I would be a bad and unstable husband and father because of my schizophrenia.  That’s why I won’t marry or even date.

Dog Days of Summer and Mental Illness

Been feeling pretty decent mentally for the last several weeks.  I haven’t really felt much anxiety or aggravation this month.  I am back exercising again.  Still have a long way to go to build up my stamina.  But it is better than even two weeks ago.  I am starting to get out of my apartment complex more often.  I haven’t been to the park much this summer but I am beginning to get over my fear of driving.  It’s been quite hot in my town this summer, especially this month.  So far the heat isn’t effecting my mood.  I usually do better in colder weather than hot weather.  Winter and spring are usually my best times of year.

Heard back on my insurance claim from my auto accident last October.  They’re offering to cover my medical expenses and give a little extra for my troubles.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the money as I already live debt free and really wasn’t planning on getting anything extra.  I’ll probably put the money into my savings.  When my car was wrecked, the auto shop had to do a few thousand dollars worth of work on the car.  It was almost as much as the resale value of the car.  If the airbags would have deployed or the damage much worse, the car would have been scrapped.  It’s a good car with only 42,000 miles and only one previous owner.  It was a commuter car for a nurse who took good care of it.  It’s a good car and hopefully I can hold onto it for the next ten years.

It won’t be too long before the weather starts cooling off and school starts again.  School starts in 3 1/2 weeks in my town.  Since I live in a college town, this town really comes to life again in the autumn.  I went to the community open house at the local state university last year.  Had enough fun I might go again this year.  I haven’t done much for socializing or fun this summer.  My nephews and niece are visiting their grandparents next week so we’re talking about taking the kids to a museum and for a picnic lunch in my town when they are here.  It’s their last fling before school starts.  The oldest is starting middle school this year.  And the youngest will probably start pre kindergarten this year as well.

The Olympics start next week too.  I always enjoy those.  I especially like watching the track and field events.  I hope it goes off without any problems.  I really haven’t watched much for tv or sporting events since the end of the Copa America and Euro tournaments.  I especially had to watch when Team USA played.  Other than getting blown out by Argentina the US team put up a better showing than I thought they would.  It would go a long way to popularizing soccer in the US if they put up a good showing at the World Cup in a couple years.  I follow soccer some, especially if Team USA is playing, because I have a niece and a nephew who are big soccer players already.  And I have to keep reminding myself that unlike football or baseball, soccer doesn’t have tv timeouts every fifteen minutes.  More than once I have had to visit the restroom while watching a game only to miss a goal.

The weather will start turning cooler within four to six weeks.  The leaves will start turning by late September and the corn harvest will begin in late September and be in full speed by October.  This has been a long summer for me but it is almost over.  I’m pretty happy that I have gotten through much of the summer without any prolonged problems.

Optimism, Delusional Thinking, and Schizophrenia

Optimism and schizophrenia are two things that normally wouldn’t go together.  Few who suffer from this mental illness would tell anyone that their hallucinations and delusional thoughts are conducive to optimism.  Most of my personal hallucinations are voices telling me all the things I’m doing wrong or how I’m angering the people in my life.  Fortunately for me my hallucinations aren’t usually loud or overbearing.  They are often whispers or low volume, much like the play by play commentary of a ballgame on television.  My hallucinations have never told me to hurt anyone or myself.  So for that alone I can be optimistic that my schizophrenia is manageable.  It does cause me irritation and anxiety that the voices are almost always there.  But, in my case, the paranoia has to be the worst.

I have had issues with paranoia even before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  I didn’t keep journals or do any writing on my own when I was growing up because I saw my brother reading the journal I kept one summer while in junior high.  I was afraid to record my thoughts as I didn’t have a lock on my bedroom door and my parents often entered my bedroom when I wasn’t there.  Once when I was in junior high I lost over $60 in birthday money.  For years I was convinced my brother stole it.  I never confronted him about it because I was paranoid the problems it would cause would be even worse than suffering in silence.  I was paranoid enough to believe my parents wouldn’t take my side in the argument and I still wouldn’t get my money back.  To this day I never found that money nor have I ever confronted my brother to see if he took that money.  I don’t know if he did or not and probably doesn’t remember it anyway.  My paranoias involve fearing people are going through my trash, people are listening in on my phone conversations, that I’m being watched every time I step out in public, etc.

I could have worse delusions.  I met some schizophrenic when I was a guest speaker at the state mental hospital that was convinced people were trying to poison his food.  I met another mentally ill man one time when I was in hospital that was convinced he was going to prison for a minor offense and wanted to hang himself.  He was on suicide watch and that was scary seeing someone that distressed.  I have met people who had great careers and families and lost them both once their mental illness took full effect later in life than mine started.  In my case my problems started in my late teens and for years I was under the delusion that I would overcome my illness and still go on to have the career and family I had dreamed about since I was five years old.

I realized I was having problems that weren’t going away on their own when I was a junior in high school.  I didn’t think much of my problems at first because most teenagers I knew were often moody and mean. It was when it was constant and interfering with my school work and activities that I decided to self medicate.  I didn’t turn to marijuana or alcohol, I turned to herbal remedies.  A friend of mine who had a rather unhealthy distrust of modern medicine recommend I try things like St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, multivitamins, and fish oil pills.  I try numerous combinations of these for two years with no noticeable effect.  Non modern medicines may work for some cases but my case wasn’t one of those.  I may have been delusional enough to believe I could treat my mysterious problems on my own.  But I have to be optimistic that I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that modern medicine was ineffective and some elaborate conspiracy.  Some people I know are delusional enough to believe that even without schizophrenia.

Some people I met were religious people who believed that I needed to pray more and be more faithful to God.  I was already the most knowledgeable student in my Sunday school classes since I was four years old.  I read the Bible almost daily to where I had read the entire book at least a few times.  I was more faithful to the teachings of the Bible than most people three to five times my age as a teenager.  For a short while in junior high I even thought about the ministry as a career.  But none of the prayers eased my anguish or calmed my delusions and fears.  Even though I went to a Christian college I was attending church maybe only two to three times a month.  I got to where I was aggravated watching people I knew who didn’t take religion as seriously as I did just seemingly coast through college and life.  I was thinking, ‘Alright God, what are they doing that I’m not.’

Finally a couple years after college I stopped going to church entirely.  It wasn’t because I was mad at any one person, but because it no longer made sense to invest that much into something that had no results.  None of the prayers or Bible studies did anything to alleviate my delusions or allow me to cope with my paranoias.  It just got to where it seemed senseless, unproductive, and even delusional.  I don’t know if God exits or not.  But I do know if the only thing keeping someone from hurting and abusing others is fearing God, than that person is indeed a sorry excuse for a human being.  I do find it just lucky that of all the thousands of beliefs that existed all over the world and throughout history that I happened to be born into the one that was most approved by God.  If I was born in India I would have been a devout Hindu.  If I was born in ancient Egypt, I would have been all for Osiris and Horus and regarded the Pharaoh as a god.  So it just gradually came to me the idea of burning in hell for all eternity just for the crime of being born into the wrong religion, wrong time, and wrong culture was delusional.  Most of my friends won’t agree with me but let them.  I won’t convince them that if there is a God that God is indifferent (that’s what the evidence I’ve seen so far convinces me).  And they won’t convince me that God will send someone to hell for losing the guessing game of picking the right religion.

As far as delusional thought goes, I am open to the possibility I could be wrong on anything.  I never got the memo that said I had to form my philosophy on life by my early twenties.  I am also not delusional enough to defend an idea I have that is being proven wrong.  Even though I am schizophrenic I have to be thankful that I don’t have the delusions of defending an idea I know to be off base.

 

Routines, Reflections, Dollars, and Desires

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This summer has been anything but routine for me.  I hurt my back in late May and I was out of commission for six weeks.  I rarely spent any time outside and didn’t travel.  I went to the park maybe three or four times in the six weeks my back was mending.  Normally I go to the park three or four times per week during the summer.  I haven’t done any traveling as I haven’t been outside my hometown since late May.  I haven’t driven much and have actually developed a slight phobia of driving.  I guess I never gained my confidence back from my accident last October.  While I got my car fixed I still haven’t heard anything back from if I can get any kind of settlement.  Progress is insanely slow in some cases.

I haven’t been outside around the complex much this summer.  It seems that most of my neighbors have been more short tempered and irritable the last several months.  I don’t know what to make of that.  I still have the one neighbor who always in a foul mood and never has anything nice to say about anyone.  Apparently he won’t be moving out any time soon.  It’s kind of tough living in here anymore.  Three of my most interesting friends in here died in 2014 and 2015.  Since I live in low income housing, who we get as neighbors is luck of the draw.  There are days when I’m depressed I would love to move out and start over.  But I don’t think any where else in my hometown would be any better.  With my mental illness and disability pension I can’t afford to move to a larger city.  I don’t want to move back in with my parents as their hometown has far less to offer than my current town.  I really don’t know if I can move to my brother’s hometown because of my disability pension and transferring to a different state.  If I were to move to another city, I’d love for it to be to a place with reasonable public transit.  I hate driving anymore.  I’d never drive again if I had the choice.

I don’t suppose schizophrenics do well in large cities.  I hear horror stories about people with mental illness ending up homeless or in jail in large cities. My schizophrenia being what it is, it’s not like I can start over with a job that pays enough to give me a decent living if I were to leave disability.  I was anxious working as retail store clerk and factory worker. I used to have panic attacks so bad I’d vomit from the anxiety before I went to work.  I fear the idea of working with the public.  I have been verbally abused enough by customers and coworkers in my previous life as a customer service worker that I never want to experience that again.  And blogging about mental illness will never pay the bills even if I am providing a good service for others.

It’s not the money I care about, it’s what the money can buy that I’m concerned about.  I don’t need the status of a high paying job to satisfy my ego.  I don’t need the large house in the suburbs or the high end penthouse in a skyscraper.  I don’t need the large pickup truck or high end foreign car.  I can get around just fine in a twelve year old four door sedan that is as good on gas mileage as anything besides the really small Japanese cars.  If I need to move something with a pickup truck, that’s why I have friends and family members with pickup trucks.  It’s amazing what one can accomplish with a phone call, a little elbow grease, and offering to buy lunch or a tank of gas.

I really have my basic material needs but I can get by with almost no splurging.  I have learned to live inexpensively on my disability pension without a job.  I am happy wearing t-shirts, sneakers, and pants from K-mart and Wal-Mart. I can get all the music I want for free via youtube or pandora radio. I don’t even have music CDs anymore.  I haven’t even downloaded music from iTunes in over a year. I would rather watch Netflix at home, sit on my own couch, and eat a delivery pizza than go to the movie theatre. I would rather go for a walk in the park or shovel snow in the winter than spend heaven knows how much on a gym membership.

Splurging for me is grilling bratwursts and spending cool and overcast autumn Saturday afternoons watching Nebraska Husker college football games on my flat screen tv.  Splurging for me is buying a bucket of KFC and a couple side dishes instead of eating off the dollar menu.  When I need new furniture I talk to friends and family who are moving or having estate sales.  I got my couch, lamps, and recliner after my grandfather died.  I got my bed and dresser after my grandmother died.  I got my house plants from helping my mother.  All I had to do was help my family clean out their places for a weekend.  The most I gave for a piece of furniture was $50 for my all purpose heavy duty table I eat from and use my computer on.  So a person can live quite inexpensively if you use your family and friends’ connections and help people out once in awhile.  The only time I go to restaurants that aren’t fast food is when I’m entertaining out of town family and friends. I have stayed out of debt for two years even without a job.  I managed to save up some emergency money that could fund my life for a couple months even without a disability pension.

So I’m not concerned about getting rich.  For the first few years I was serious about writing, I was hoping to make some money as a writer, travel on the speaking circuit, and donate a bunch of money to my college as some of my happiest memories are from my four and a half years at York College in York, Nebraska.  Now that I know how to live on less than I thought I could and I see how much stress my brother is under with his job, I know it’s not the high paying job or successful business that I need or even want.  The big thing that I want now is for my experiences and writings to make a positive difference for whomever happens to read these entires.  I have no delusions I’ll make much money writing a mental illness blog.  Schizophrenia my involve delusions but that’s not one of my delusions.  I don’t care if I make money off  my writings and blogging.  I really don’t even care if I make above poverty level wages.  I just want to make a positive difference in the lives of whomever reads my blogs, whether you be a mental health patient, support person, or just someone who cares about the problems of the mentally ill.  I don’t desire riches.  I desire to make a positive difference in at least a few lives.

First Day Back Exercising

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Today was the first day I did any real exercise since I threw out my back six weeks ago.  I can tell I have gotten real rusty and out of shape in the six weeks I spent mending my back.  I walked for only ten minutes, enough to get the blood moving but that’s about all.  I’m not sore from walking but I can tell I am out of practice.  It is quite hot in my hometown as late July and August are always the hottest times of the year.  I’m still not quite adjusted to the heat as I haven’t been outside much while my back was mending.  And it was quite a cool and wet spring this year, so I was used to exercising indoors this spring.

I’m going to start lifting arm weights again.  I’ll start that tonight.  It has been kind of an odd tradition for me to lift arm weights and do stretching while watching Star Trek reruns. A friend of mine got me started on that last summer.  I’m most of the way through Season 3 of Star Trek: Enterprise.  But when my back was healing I didn’t lift any arm weights or do much for stretching.  I’m sure I’m going to be just as rusty with the weights as I was the walking.  I’ll have to use the light weights for a couple weeks until I’m back to normal.

I also starting tracking what I eat again.  I got discouraged for the last few months and was lazy about tracking.  I was especially lazy when I couldn’t exercise outdoors and then after I hurt my back.  Before I hurt my back I had some unexplained foot pain that limited my walking for over two weeks.  So I haven’t been able to exercise hardly at all since the weather warmed up.  And I had to exercise indoors this spring because it was chilly and rainy almost every day.

When I was at my psych doctor last time, I had gained twenty pounds since the start of the year.  That was one month ago.  I’m sure I’ve gain some more as I was not exercising because of my back.  But my back is good again.  I can sleep in a regular bed again after weeks in a recliner.  I get more sleep in a regular bed but I fall asleep faster in my recliner.  I can’t figure that one out.

Because of my back pain and lack of activity I’ve been more depressed and irritable than usual.  I’m sorry I don’t make a very good patient.  But in the handful of times I’ve been in a hospital I make it a point to never get irritable with the nurses and doctors.  I force myself to be on good behavior I suppose.  When I’m healing on my own I can be more short tempered and depressed than usual.  I got angry with two of my best friends over a week ago.  I’m still embarrassed about that.  One of these friends I got mad at I hadn’t ever had an argument with and we’ve been friends for fifteen years.  Another was my best friend from high school and we have raised our voices to each other only a handful of times, mostly when I was in the grip of a mental breakdown.  I’m embarrassed I let those things happen.  I grew up in a family where we rarely yelled at each other and never had instances where we stopped talking to people.  We may not talk to each other every day but we will drop everyone for one of our own in crisis.  Even my extended family is like this to each other.

I’ve mended from my back issues, finally.  It was one of the longest six week stretches I was ever part of.  I’m beginning to exercise again.  I’m starting to socialize again.  I’m beginning to track what I eat again.  I haven’t yet got my blinds fixed but that is coming.  I might even get new carpet by summer’s end.  After months when almost nothing seemed to go right I think I’m starting to turn the corner.  Maybe things will start to get better.

 

 

Breaking Out of My Normal

Anyone who knows about living with a mental illness is aware that what is normal for us is beyond the grasp of the unaffected.  Excessive anxiety, unshakeable fears, crippling depression, and bouts of unreasonable anger are scary for anyone without a diagnosis when they see us acting this way.  For us, it’s just another day at the office.  Yet there are times when things are going better than normal for us.  Mental illness isn’t just day after tormenting day of bleakness and horror.  There are times when we are doing alright, in fact almost indistinguishable from the normal who don’t have such problems.

These last several weeks have been such times when things have gone well.  I’ve gotten out and socialized more the last two weeks than the previous four months.  I have been avoiding my neighbors in my low income apartment complex by in large for the last several months.  Seems like my neighbors (everybody in our 50 unit complex is my neighbor as there seems to be little privacy) had been in more foul moods than normal.  It didn’t help that my three closest friends in here died in late 2014 to early 2015.  These were good, witty men who were pleasant to chat with.  After those three died, it seemed that we got a bunch of new tenants who were just in lousy moods all the time.  And as we live in tight quarters already, that kind of poison infects other people who in turn put other people in foul moods.  We have also had a rash of thefts in our complex the last several months.  Unfortunately, living in low income housing, who we get for new tenants can be hit or miss.  Lately we have gotten some cranks, jerks, gossips, and other assorted nonsense.  Finally I decided to quit hiding out in my apartment and just made it a point to avoid the losers and mingle with the sane and cool tenants we still have.  I didn’t even go to last year’s Christmas party because I didn’t want to have my holidays spoiled by toxic people.  But I just had to get out of my apartment more.  It gets too easy to hide out in winter when there’s too much snow and ice to really do anything.  I no longer want mean and stupid people dictating the terms of my life. I refuse to feel like a prisoner in my own home.

I got to see my niece and nephews last week.  They had a few days off from school and came up to see the grandparents.  We cooked hot dogs over an open fire and I played magnetic darts with the kids.  Found out the oldest, who’s going into middle school this fall, is joining the school band and taking classes in robotics.  I am thrilled about both, especially about the robotics classes.  My brother’s kids are always taking apart electronics and seeing how they work and how to put them back together again.  When I went to school in the 1990s, computers classes weren’t even required after sixth grade.  We had maybe a couple computers classes offered as electives but nothing like ‘one hour a day of coding’ that some places do now.  Pretty much everything I learned about computers I either learned on my own or from some of my more adventurous friends.  I would have loved to been able to take things apart and tried to put them back together or just trial and error computers as a kid.  I’m glad my brother’s kids are being encouraged to do these new things and learn from their mistakes.  All three of the kids in school are also in advanced classes and gifted programs.  My brother and I would have been in such programs but my school didn’t offer those programs years ago.  So I got to see my nephews and niece and got to hear about the projects they have going.  I hope they continue to do well.

I have also been tracking my eating and exercise for three weeks now.  I’ve lost almost ten pounds in those three weeks.  Besides keeping track of everything I eat and shutting myself off for the day once I come close to a preset calorie limit, I am not doing anything crazy or fadish.  I don’t even restrict anything, just how much I eat.  If I want pizza, I go to the neighborhood pizzeria and buy a couple slices and that itch is scratched for a few days. If I want a cheeseburger, I hoof it over to the McDonalds and buy a cheeseburger or two.  But I also keep track of what I eat throughout the day.  Yes it means updating a few times a day.  Yes it means being anal retentive about keeping records and watching calories.  But, it works for me.  The previous several months when I wasn’t tracking and gaining weight despite my exercising, I was no doubt eating more than I thought.  I don’t do that now.  I have lost close to ten pounds in three weeks and I didn’t even have to strain myself exercise wise.  I usually do only fifteen to twenty minutes a day but I do it everyday.  I suppose I could try to push harder on exercise but why burn yourself out one day and be forced to take the next day off?  That makes no sense.  What I am currently doing is starting to work again.  And it will continue to work as long as I keep following the setup I have figured out after years of trial and error.