Aging With Mental Illness


As summer fades into fall I think I have passed through the toughest time of year for myself.  Other than a couple problems I have escaped this summer without any kind of serious breakdowns.  I consider this a victory.  Perhaps it means that after fifteen years of dealing with a mental illness diagnosis I’m able to manage even the worst parts well.

I have heard from my psych doctors and other people in the know that problems with schizophrenia often lessen with age.  When I was going through the worst of my illness in the early years I didn’t pay any attention.  I was hurting bad enough with the depression, hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, and paranoia that any possible improvements years later seemed a hallow promise.  I was barely able to function for much of my twenties so the prospect that things would start to get better in my late thirties or early forties didn’t matter at all.  All I knew was I had lost every dream I ever had because of schizophrenia and I would be living on the fringes of society for the rest of my life.  It was no consolation that I might get better in twenty years.  I knew that my prospects for a productive and meaningful life were over.

At least that’s what I thought a dozen years ago when it became obvious to me that I would never be able to hold any kind of meaningful full time employment.  I filed for disability insurance through Social Security and moved into HUD housing.  During my stay in HUD housing and my two stints in a mental hospital, I met many people who were in worse shape than I ever was.  I met people who still didn’t want to take their medications even after twenty years of a diagnosis.  These people refused to take their meds even when it was obvious they weren’t functioning at all without them.  I met people who had severe physical health problems because of smoking and drug abuse in addition to their mental health problems.  I met some people who were just angry and irritable all the time and a few of them even had a mental health diagnosis.

Over the years I also met some pretty cool people with mental illness and or living in HUD housing.  I met one lady who had a pretty high end corporate job until her problems started in her forties.  She was quite an artist too.  I met the pastor friend of mine who knew Hebrew and Greek in HUD housing.  While I miss him and haven’t found any friends like him since he died two years ago, I imagine someone just as good will come along in my apartment complex given enough time.  We have had a few jerks and cranks move in during my ten years here.  We have had many move out or get evicted too.  On a long enough time scale the jerks and cranks usually get what they earn.  Even the ones who didn’t get evicted got shunned by the tenants at large.  One way to make a stay in an apartment complex really unpleasant is to always be mean and or act like the rules don’t apply to you.  Fortunately I haven’t had those problems.  I know that some of the older tenants were resentful of me moving in to the complex ten years ago when I was so young. Previously my complex had been reserved for the elderly.  But, seriously, where else was I going to go?  Long term hospitalization isn’t a highly utilized option anymore.

Of course as good as some of these psychiatric medications have gotten over the last couple decades, long term hospitalization isn’t needed for many psychiatric patients.  Of the three medications I am currently prescribed, two of them didn’t exist even five years ago.  And the DNA tests I took earlier this year indicated that these medications would work quite well given my DNA.  Sure enough these tests were right.  Since I can’t process stress and anxiety well enough to hold a full time job anymore, I’m approaching my life much like a retiree.  I am grateful for the time I have.  I am grateful for being able to live a low stress life.  I am grateful to be able to come and go as I please.  I am grateful I have learned to live on not much money.  And I am especially grateful that I am still able to write about my mental illness and be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.  It’s been an up and down last fifteen years with a diagnosis.  But I think I have seen the worst parts of the illness and am settling into middle age.  I can hardly wait to see what the next fifteen years brings me personally and the treatment of mental illness at large.




My College Years


I see that many schools in my part of the United States are starting their school years again.  The college in my hometown starts next week so we will have 18 to 23 year old college students trickling in throughout this week.  I actually enjoy my hometown more when the college students are back.  I used to go up to the 24 hour Wal Mart during the school year just to see what the college students were up to.  Many college age people spent their overnight hours at the Wal Mart just doing goofy college aged stuff.  I know I’m old enough now I wouldn’t pass as a college student but I do find the overnight crowd watching entertaining.  Reminds me of when my friends and I used to do similar things when we were in college.  I’ll probably restart that tradition when school gets going.  My friends and I often went to the all night diners on Halloween to see college people and older in their costumes.  I didn’t go to the bars on Halloween because the music was always too loud and I don’t deal well with drunk people.

I readily admit to being more nostalgic for my college years than my high school years.  For one, most people in college were there because they wanted to be and not because they were legally forced to.  I loved college because I, for the first time in my life, wasn’t penalized for being smart and eccentric.  I met some eccentric and cool people who made me look neurotypical.  One of my friends in college was an incredibly intelligent girl who made me look like I was mentally standing still.  We were in a class together that involved lots of writing and class discussions.  She always made it a point to keep everyone on our toes and sharp.  She had less tolerance for ignorance than I.  I miss her and I regret that we had a falling out.  I had another cool friend in that class that was really sharp and a real pleasant girl to be around.  She had a kind word for everyone regardless.  She had her beliefs but she wasn’t as abrasive about hers as I could be about mine.  Especially before I became diagnosed I tended to be as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face when I thought someone’s ideas weren’t sound.  I never learned the fine art of diplomacy until my college career was almost over.


I enjoyed the all night conversations in the dorms.  It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to be up until sunrise talking with my roommate, my neighbors, or just random people in the dorm and still be on time for an 8 am class after a couple cups of cowboy coffee.  My best friend in college managed to sweet talk the dorm dad into allowing him to have a coffee maker in his dorm.  I slept a lot in the afternoons so I could be up all night with the rest of my dorm.  I spent a lot of time playing pool and trivia games at the student center.  I got to where I was decent at pool but developed a reputation for being so good at trivia games that no one wanted to play me.  My friends and I played lots of board games.  Trivial Pursuit, Axis and Allies, and Risk were quite common for us.  We didn’t play a lot of card games until I moved off campus for my senior year.  I didn’t go to any wild fraternity parties as I went to a Christian college and we had an officially dry campus.

I did pledge a fraternity in my freshman year and was active for a couple years.  I went independent in my junior year once it became obvious to me that I had to spend more time studying if I wanted to graduate, especially with a mental illness and changing my major.  I didn’t do any sports in college besides intramural softball.  I still managed to do lots of flag football and ultimate frisbee on the campus green when I was in school. Ruined many t-shirts and gym shoes because of playing in the rain and mud too many times. They should make ultimate frisbee an Olympic sport.  It is a real sport.  I knew a couple guys who got broken ankles in those games.  I enjoyed lifting weights in the school fitness center.  I didn’t drive much in college except for road trips.  My roommate and I went to New Mexico over Thanksgiving break one year to visit his long distance girlfriend.  My best friend and I went trout fishing and hiking in the Black Hills a couple times during Spring Break.  Sometimes we’d go to the next college town over and hit the cheap movie theaters.  Since most of my friends weren’t drinkers we didn’t do the bars in college.  Besides the music in bars is far too loud for any kind of conversation.

If there is a point to my ramblings about my college years back in the pre wireless internet ages, it is in spite my problems with mental illness I still had a good time in college.  I made some pretty cool friends I still hear from and have some pleasant memories.  I was able to have a better time in college than high school because we were just more accepting of other people and their quirks.  People accepted me despite my issues and problems and I accepted them too.  I don’t think back on those years often enough.  But I certainly feel good when I do.

Experiences With Mental Illness Blogging

I’ve been doing this blog for over three years.  And I absolutely enjoy every minute I spend blogging.  I enjoy it more than any traditional job I ever had.  I enjoy it even more than the classes I took in college.  I don’t have to be forced to write about mental illness.  I would do this for free.  I am doing it for free unless I get any kind of advertising revenue or sponsors.  I wouldn’t refuse any money that comes my way even though I am not delusional enough to think I can get off disability pension from blogging.  I have been doing this blog for three years and not made a cent off it.  In my twelve years of overall writing I have probably broke even between selling print on demand books and what I spent advertising my blog through Facebook.  I don’t suppose many people can claim they have a passionate hobby that almost pays for itself.

After spending several years with selling only a few dozen books of mental illness essays and poetry I really had no expectations with this blog.  I didn’t know what kind of a following I would have or even if I would have a following outside my mother and a few friends.  So I set up shop with a free blog site and started writing blogs about what it is like to have schizophrenia to people who can’t imagine it.  This isn’t the first blog I ever did.  A friend and I did a blog several years ago.  It never gained more than a couple hundred views because we were unfocused and not posting regularly.  I did a blog about my poetry for awhile before I found out I wasn’t much of a poet and there really isn’t a great demand for average poetry.

After examining what I liked to read, what I was good at writing, and what I gained good audiences from, I decided three years ago to focus on writing about my experiences with mental illness.  That’s when I gained more than a few readers.  After years of experimenting with styles and genres, I came to the conclusion I do best writing nonfiction essays from the first person point of view.  I had written rough drafts for two coming of age type novels both from first person view.  They didn’t really hold together and I later found out for fiction novels that first person is tougher than third person point of view.

Once I found my niche and style I had a few visitors coming in with every blog post.  After it became a weekly posting I had a few more visitors.  The thing that helped me gain more visitors was posting often.  A blogger simply can’t build any kind of audience by posting only once or twice a month or only when the creative muse moves them.  Most of my favorite individual youtube content creators post several times a week and have for several years.  I’m not at that kind of proficiency, but perhaps I could be if I keep posting material.  I think it helps to get a body of work of several dozen postings at minimum so that search engines can find your work easier.  As of now I have had close to two hundred postings over the last three years and a little over 9,500 visitors from 90 different nations.  There are bloggers (and youtube stars) who get that even on bad days, but I’ve been working at this for only a few years and haven’t done as much advertising as some people.  Being on a limited budget with a disability pension I have to be choosy about what kind of advertising I do as it still costs money to get truly noticed.

Early on in the first several months I got some audience from following other bloggers and leaving positive comments on their articles.  I left nothing but positive comments.  If I didn’t agree with a particular post I just didn’t comment.  I didn’t want to gain the reputation of a troll or troublemaker.  Having a good reputation on the internet is more valuable than gold.  I got some following from following other bloggers and I tried to direct some of my readers to bloggers who helped me out.  But leaving positive comments on other blogs, following other blogs, and trying to refer traffic to other blogs helped me out in the early months.

Even though I have a few years of blogging experience and some following I don’t consider myself established by any means.  I don’t think there can be anything really established as far as the internet and the current information revolution goes.  I was learning as I went when I wrote my first words twelve years ago and I’m still learning new things even today. I was a bit frustrated in the early years when I would get rejection notices in the mail several times a week.  I was also frustrated in the early postings when I wasn’t getting more than a few visitors per post.  But looking back on it, I see how rough and raw most of those writings were.  I’m glad they didn’t get published.  And I’m sure in several more years I’ll look at some of the things I’m writing now as rough and unpolished.  It’s a continuous process that never ends.  I hope to always keep improving as a writer so I can better explain to people what living with a mental illness is really like.



Routines, Reflections, Dollars, and Desires


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.

Dealing With Depression

It’s been a rough last several days for me.  Spent most of the weekend at home and dealing with bouts of intense depression.  Finally had a break down on Sunday night.  Got into serious arguments with two of my best friends.  Sent one of them a really nasty message over Facebook and another I yelled at over the phone and hung up before he could say anything.  Summers are traditionally a tough time for me.  And I think the bad seasonal aspects of my mental illness are beginning again.

It also doesn’t help that most people I know are in foul moods already.  A week’s worth of nothing but news of shootings and violence would put anyone who pays attention in a pessimist view point.  I have spent the last several months trying to get people to be happy about the good things that are going on in the world and in their own lives.  But I don’t think I’m making any difference.  If anything I think telling people the good news going on in science and technology advances and humanitarian endeavors only make people irritable.  I don’t get any encouragement for trying to encourage people.  That’s probably what led to my last meltdown.  I wish I could just shut up from trying to encourage people. But that is not my personality.  Never has been.  Seeking and sharing knowledge is what I do.  It has also gotten me in lots of trouble over the years.

The reason I spend so much time trying to tell people good news is because I heard nothing but bad news the entire time I was growing up.  My teachers told me that acid rain was going to kill all the forests and poison the oceans.  But that never materialized because as some adults were weeping and gnashing teeth over problems, other adults (namely scientists) were actually doing something to solve those problems.  We developed better pollution controls.  The ozone layer depletion was a big deal in the late 1980s.  We got rid of chemicals that were causing said depletion and now the hole in the ozone layer is starting to heal.

The problems that people project into the future too often assume that people aren’t going to adapt.  In the 1960s it was overpopulation and famines that would end civilization.  Now the birth rates in most developed countries are not even replacement rate. I also saw a report that said there are now 2.1 billion people in the world who are overweight.  That’s almost one out of three people who are eating too much. The United States isn’t even the most obese country in the world anymore (at least not by percentage). Then there were the concerns of nuclear war and communist scares.  The first movie I remember watching from start to finish was ‘Red Dawn’ as a five year old.  I was expecting the Russians to invade any day for weeks afterward.  The scare the whole world was going to go communist was at the forefront of my childhood in the 1980s.  Didn’t happen.  People are now worried about terrorist groups abusing their religion and that the world will be completely radicalized in term of religion.  If anything, as the internet continues to spread, people will become less dogmatic about religion.  It happened in Europe, North America, and is happening in East Asia.  I certainly became less dogmatic in my religious, political, and spiritual views since I got easy access to the internet.  And I am not the only one.  This is a trend that isn’t likely to reverse.  The internet is one of those game changers, like the printing press or gunpowder.  We still have only scratched the surface of what this easy access to information can do.  It is one of the reasons I stay optimistic even with schizophrenia.  In fact, except for the flare ups, I am hopeful overall.  It’s that one percent of the time that causes me probably ninety five percent of my problems.  And last night for a few hours was one of those times.  I’m sorry I took out my psychotic break on my friends.  I would prefer if I could just break down and sob uncontrollably.  But that’s not how I’m wired.  I lash out when I’m in pain, sadly at those that care about me the most.

Fear and Mental Illness


I have dealt with a mental illness since my late teens.  But even after so many years with schizophrenia I still find there are things I fear greatly.  I have had a severe fear of heights since this illness became full blown.  I haven’t ridden in an airplane since my early twenties and I don’t foresee ever doing so again.  I know that flying is statistically much safer than driving but it’s the heights that still cause that tingling feeling of fear to corkscrew down my spine.  I can’t even climb ladders or get on roofs.  I am sure my bosses were very unhappy with me that I didn’t work well on ladders.  But a fear of heights has developed since I became mentally ill.  I have tried to conquer my fears of heights by forcing myself to be in high places but this almost triggered a full fledged psychotic breakdown more than once.

In addition to heights, I have a severe fear of confrontations and arguments.  I have gotten to where I hate logging onto social media because of the stupid and immature arguments and things even my family and friends get into.  With this being an election year people in my family and friends circles are especially on edge and combative.  I have unfollowed dozens of people because I don’t want to hear the arguments anymore.  I have unfollowed people I even agree with.  I especially hate when I post something on a friend’s page and someone has to post some negative and angry comment on my thread.  I have experienced enough to know that most people are not mean and malicious by nature.  But even some of the most mild mannered people I ever knew can turn vicious online.  Have you forgotten you are talking to a real person on the other end?  And I know you wouldn’t be that mean if you were having a conversation in person.  Some of things I have read on many people’s sites would get them arrested or ostracized if they said those things in public.  I would love to see the day that we have the same civility online that we have with the people in real life.  I would also love to be cured of schizophrenia and not have to deal with these fears anymore.  A man can dream, can’t he?  I’m just thankful that this maliciousness doesn’t spill over into everyday life very often.  We just hear about the few times it does, thanks to always being connected.

I have always had a fear of driving, especially in large cities and express ways.  I literally haven’t driven on the Interstate in almost ten years.  Too fast traffic, too much going on, and too many people not paying attention.  I was almost in another car accident yesterday when a driver ran a red light when I was driving through an intersection.  This isn’t the only close call I’ve had lately.  I am getting to where I’m scared just to drive to the neighborhood gas station.  Some days, between the fears of driving and fears of my argumentative neighbors, I just don’t want to leave my apartment.  Being out among angry and sullen people just isn’t my idea of a good time.  It’s like some of these people want to argue and even fight.  I have grown tired of it.  I am weary.  I am ready for winter again when I am not expected to be out of my apartment.  Besides I do better mentally in winters than summers anyway.  I just don’t want to deal with these fears.

Adjusting to New Medications

It’s now been two weeks since I started the process of medication changes.  I will go off one med entirely starting tomorrow.  I’ve already noticed positive changes in my moods and mental states.  I don’t get as easily irritated and I seem to deal slightly better with stressors.  I have a stronger want to get out of my apartment and do things other than blog and mess with computers.  I even found myself looking through the job postings of my local newspaper just to see what was out there.  While I don’t believe I’m stable enough to hold employment, I have found myself kind of bored with the life I had carved out for myself over the last two to three years.

I find myself wanting to socialize now outside of close friends and family members now.  To this end I talk more to tenants in my complex and participate more in online discussion forms.  I didn’t realize until the last few days just how bad I had let my socializing fall apart over the last year or so.  I actually feel bad now that I haven’t been socializing.  Yes I have gone from being irritated and annoyed by most people to now actually wanting to be around people more often.  I doubt I’ll ever become Mr. Social Hour as I have been an introvert my entire life.  But I do enjoy people watching at the park and the mall.

I haven’t been as active as I would have liked.  But I hope that’s mainly because of chillier weather the last several days.  I don’t think I eat any more than I did previously with exception to the first few days of the change over.  I don’t crave sugar all the time now.  Hopefully that was a passing thing as I was adapting to different medications.  But I haven’t had much for auditory hallucinations nor have I had much for paranoia the last few days.  I’m not even that bothered by driving any more, at least not as much.  I don’t get overly irritated if someone is driving too slow or not following standard road etiquette.

And there are some things that haven’t changed that much.  I still don’t watch that much traditional tv, especially not the news.  The news I usually get from online sources.  In fact, most of my tv watching besides live sports is online.  I will watch some baseball most days or at least have it on in the background while I’m doing something else.  And I’m involved in the same fantasy baseball league I’ve been with for the last several years.  It’s a free online league of myself, a few college friends, and several friends of friends.  But just because it’s a free league doesn’t mean it’s not competitive.  It makes me watch games almost everyday and pay attention at least ten minutes a day to my team.

I see my psych doctor tomorrow to discuss the next phase of my treatments.  We could be going anywhere from here.  But I know we won’t keep doing what we have been for the last several months.  I can hardly wait to see where we go from here.