Thoughts on Winter and Blogging While Mentally Ill

Been awhile since I wrote.  Haven’t really had too much to report lately.  It’s been too cold and too much snow to really go anywhere or do much of anything.  I’m getting burned out on reading, messing with my computers, and just staying home.  I’m glad to hear it’s supposed to start warming up again, at least by early March standards within a couple days.  I don’t think my town has been above freezing point in three weeks.  It’s one of the toughest cold spells I can recall.  There are times I have gone a few days in a row without even going outside it’s been so cold.  I don’t even know how much snow we still have on the ground except that it’s at least twelve inches.  Looking out my window, I can see one of the parking lots across the street from my house has piles of shoveled snow at least ten feet tall.  I used to go sledding on piles like that growing up.  It’s been one of the snowiest winters I can recall.  I haven’t seen even dried up grass since Christmas.

I write about the weather because I don’t have much else to report.  Been fairly stable overall.  I sleep maybe eight hours a day, but not all at once.  I usually sleep five hours in the night and take a couple naps during the day.  My days normally start around four a.m.   I usually nap for a couple hours in the afternoon, usually for an hour in the evening after dinner, and then I usually take my medications and call the day done around ten p.m.  I like this routine actually more than the all nighters I was pulling as recently as a year ago.  It allows me to do some things in the quiet and dark hours of early morning.  But I can still leave my apartment easily and run errands at four or five a.m. before the crowds get too bad just like I could at midnight or one a.m.  Usually by four a.m. about the only people on the streets are people reporting in for early morning work and city employees.  In the middle of the night it’s mostly eccentrics even odder then myself and the police.  And if I want to get some restaurant food without fighting the crowds, the middle of the afternoon suits me as well as the middle of the night did even as recent as three years ago.

I have settled and stabled more in my late thirties than at any time in my life.  And this blog is starting to attract better than ever audiences, at least on the days I write.  I’ve had at least four days since January 1st when I drew over one hundred visitors for one day.  My first such one hundred plus visitor day was I think last year.  I don’t know if the search engines are starting to pick me up more, more people are interested in mental health issues, or if the persistence is starting to pay off, etc.  But I am getting pretty decent visits now, at least decent for my standards.  When May arrives I will have been doing this blog on a regular basis for six years.  I still have most of my posts from these six years online and on this site.  I should go through them one of these days and see what I can discard and what I should keep so to make my blog more easy to navigate.  I should also take some time to compare and contrast my writings and moods now to those early years.

I have done blogging for six years now.  The longest I ever held a “real job” was four years when I worked as a janitor at the courthouse from 2008 to 2012.  This blog is the most satisfying work I have done in my entire life even if it is the worst paying.  With what I have spent to promote the blog and register my website, I still haven’t made a profit even after six years.  Yet I really don’t care if I do.  Yes, it would be cool to make some more money from my writing.  I wouldn’t refuse it.  But this is more a community service or labor of love than anything.  Being a parent pays nothing but it’s the most influential and important job any person can have.  Just because work doesn’t make money doesn’t mean someone isn’t getting something of value from it.  I may never turn a profit or get bigger audiences than I am now.  But that is alright with me.  I just hope to keep these postings online and in public access for years to come.  Maybe someone can get some benefit from these posts even after I am dead and forgotten.  Of course, if a cure for schizophrenia was discovered at some point in the future, then that would be a major blessing for myself and millions with similar problems.  It would mean I would have to go back to work probably.  But it would be a cool problem to have being cured of schizophrenia and having to find work again.  I wonder if people will still be hiring experienced writers and bloggers by then.

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Problems Socializing

Been a few days since I last wrote.  But that is mainly because I really haven’t had any real ups or downs.  I’ve been quite stable for several days.  Haven’t felt any real anxiety or depression for any true length of time.  I still spend most of my time alone without much for physical interaction.  But I still interact with friends and family via phone calls and Facebook.  I don’t mind being alone as much as I used to.  It’s a routine that doesn’t cause me stress and anxiety.  I just see no need to interact with my neighbors much as I really have no interest in talking about mundane things like weather and complex gossip.  I just have no use for that kind of information I can pick up on my own within seconds.  I don’t have to rehash the same mundane nonsense over and over again.  It bores me and irritates me.  I mean, seriously, please tell me something I don’t already know.  Or better yet, tell me something that is interesting.

Naturally many people I have met over the years have thought I was aloof, arrogant, and anti social.  This is mainly because I have interests outside of my home community, sports, and politics.  It was tough growing up in an era before the internet in an isolated village.  I was annoyed at how everyone in my village thought my business was their business.  This bothered me even in grade school.  I had always heard “If you’re not up to anything bad, it shouldn’t matter who knows”.  No.  Most people I knew and know today are really judgmental of anyone outside of the accepted norm.  I am outside of the norm on just about everything.  Playing football in high school was probably the only thing I did growing up that many people would have thought normal.  No I don’t like mindless chit chat.  No I don’t like chasing women.  No I don’t like most of what is on tv.  There’s a lot of things I like that most people don’t care at all about.  I like discussing the possibilities of future science and technology.  I like discussing history.  I like discussing philosophy.  I like discussing classical literature.  I like writing.  I like reading.  It seems that most people I know haven’t read a book since high school.  And if any of likes or dislikes makes me appear as an elitist intellectual snob, than so be it.  We need more people who try to think rather than just through life sub conscious.

None of these social problems are made easier by having schizophrenia.  But at least having mental illness and problems socializing has taught me who is and who isn’t trustworthy.  I may not have lots of social contacts, but I do have some amazing family and friends.  And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

Mental Stability With Schizophrenia Is Tough and Other Thoughts

I have been mentally stable for weeks now.  It is a welcomed relief to not have to fear having mini breakdowns everyday or risk having major setbacks because of relatively minor problems.  I may have given my readers the idea that taking medications and going to regular counseling sessions are enough to stabilize the mentally ill.  If only it were so.

Many, if not most, mentally ill people are worse off than I am.  A significant percentage of homeless people are untreated mentally ill people.  Just today I read an article about a homeless lady from Oregon who recently died from hypothermia.  She was homeless because she fell two months behind on her rent at a low income housing complex.  No one informed her family members she was being evicted or having mental health problems.  This lady, like me, had schizophrenia.  Like me, she had been a model resident in her complex for several years before the mental health problems came back.  I sometimes find myself afraid that something similar could happen to me.  I have some setbacks, I get in trouble in my complex, I get evicted, and no one bothers to inform anyone who could help me out.  I have also seen statistics that one fourth of people killed by police officers are mentally ill people having psychotic breakdowns.

This is one of the reasons I am paranoid about cops.  I appreciate that they have a brutal and often thankless job but I am still afraid of them.  Some may say “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”  If only that were true.  I have had plenty of experience of authority figures, coworkers, peers, and even my own parents just telling me off over things I wasn’t guilty of.  I used to get yelled out for being too sad and even too happy.  It was like I was supposed to have the emotions of a pile of garden tools.  I’m not unemotional.  I have strong feelings and opinions, especially when I don’t share them.  I have enough white noise and hallucinations going on in my mind even on good days that getting in my face and yelling at me doesn’t calm me down or motivate me.  If anything I want to severely hurt anyone who raises their voice to me.  The Marine drill instructor, alpha male jock, kick ass and take names approach does not work on me.  It never has and it never will.  It only makes me more angry.

I am scared of people who yell and scream a lot.  I am scared of people who love violence.  I am scared of people who think violence and war will solve all problems.  I am terrified of stupid people in large groups.  One of the reasons I hate socializing is that I don’t like being vulnerable or dealing with the unknown.  I have to admit that somedays I don’t want to leave my apartment simply because I am afraid of people in general.

I am not really a misanthrope.  I genuinely love intelligent conversations that are calm and non argumentative.  I have yet to have an intelligent conversation with a dog or a house plant.  And I imagine it will be a long time before a computer can be a worthy substitute for human conversation.  I don’t hate people, I just can’t stand it when they do stupid and cruel things.  Now I know that people are no more cruel and stupid then they were in past generations.  If anything they were probably dumber and less compassionate before mass media and universal education.  I just hear about stupid and cruel actions more just because I am more connected than past generations.   Years ago, for me to hear about a homeless mentally ill person dying of hypothermia, it would have had to happen in my hometown.  But as it is we are more connected now than ever.  That isn’t going to change.  If anything we are going to get even more connected and involved in the lives of complete strangers living all over the world in the coming years.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am convinced that one of the reasons people will fight with others is because we can’t see where the other person is coming from.  I think it was a lack of open communication and intermingling that lead to peoples and nations in past ages to fight wars against each other.  Personally I would rather do business with a foreigner or have dinner with him than fight him in a war.  In all honesty, people have far more in common then they know.  It’s this fear of the unknown that keeps peoples apart.  It is my hope that in coming generations these barriers will continue to be broken down through mass communications and trade.  It’s kind of tough to go to war against a country when you are doing a lot of business with a potential foe.  Perhaps in future generations they can say that it was the internet and international trade that led to the end of massive wars.  I may be a dreamer but I am definitely not the only one who can see a better future than what we have even now in January 2017.

Blasting Mental Illness Stigma and Giving Hope For the Future

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I suppose this could be filed under rant and frustration with normal people. There are times when I feel like I’m making some difference with this blog and that I’m making a positive impact on people.  Then there are times I feel like I just as well be talking to myself because I don’t seem to be getting through to people.  Right now I feel like I’m not making any kind of positive difference.  Most neurotypical people still think it’s alright to shun and discriminate against the mentally ill.  Many still think we are dangerous and to be locked up permanently out of sight and out of mind.  Mental illness is still stigmatized by popular culture and misunderstood by the public at large.  I’m sure I have people in my Facebook friends list who think I’m just dreaming up my problems because they think I’m weak, lazy, and don’t want to do any real work.  I am definitely not making these problems up.  I would gladly give ten years off the end of my life if it meant I never had to suffer from schizophrenia again.  I’ve been fighting this mental illness since age seventeen, so for over half of my life now.  I can’t remember what it’s like not to suffer from delusions, paranoia, depression, easy anger, and excessive fear.  I can’t remember the last time I talked with even close friends about things like politics and religion without fear of having a psychotic breakdown and ruining the friendship.  I can’t remember what it’s like not living in fear and paranoia of authority  figures, whether they were bosses, landlords, or police officers.

I never understood the mentality that nothing can go wrong with the human brain.  We don’t stigmatize people with heart problems, diabetes, blindness, deafness, or cancer.  We as a society accept that things can go wrong with every other organ in the human body.  But as a society we don’t seem to be as accepting that things can go wrong with the human brain, arguably the most complex instrument in the currently known universe.  I am somewhat hopeful with the programs began by the U.S. government and the E.U. that attempt to reverse engineer the human brain.  Maybe we can find out why some brains malfunction and develop mental illness.  I’m not delusional enough to believe I will ever be cured of schizophrenia, but perhaps better treatments can be developed and maybe future generations can find a way to cure mental illness.  As it seems to me, the brain is probably the final true unknown of medical science.

I imagine that my friends and readers get sick of me always writing about science and tech advances being the true benefactors of humanity.  But I get far more encouragement out of seeing science and engineering advances made on what seems a weekly basis now than listening to political debate or religious dogma.  There are cool things happening in science practically every day in this day and age.  I am thrilled to hear that private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin as well as NASA are seriously talking about sending people to colonize Mars within the next twenty years.  I am thrilled that we could soon have a vaccine for HIV, which I believe will be looked upon by future generations with the same horror we now look upon smallpox and bubonic plague.  I am happy that we are finding possible ways to treat anti biotic resistant bugs.  I know some of my farmer friends will want to crucify me for this, but the possibilities of vertical farming in big cities and lab grown meat intrigue me.  Supposedly there are medications in trials that could reverse obesity that have already been tested on lab rats.  Something like that, providing it doesn’t interfere with my psych medications. would be a life saver for me as I’ve been overweight since puberty.  That alone would reduce burdens on the health care system in many developed countries.  I am anxious to see lab grown replacement organs make the organ and tissue donor system obsolete.  I would love to see driverless cars take off and make owning your own car as much of a relic as the horse drawn carriage.

We are living in some of the most exciting times in human history, if not the most exciting times.  Yet these wonders seem to be lost on most people I interact with on a daily basis.  I don’t know why people lost their sense of wonder, creativity, and possibility.  To listen to most people we aren’t advancing at all, as if everything from hear on out is going to be down hill.  I don’t understand why most people are pessimistic and fearful.  I don’t see enough people saying ‘we have problems but we’ve solved problems in the past and we will continue to do so.’  Why is it considered normal and grown up to be worrisome and blind to the beauty and possibility of life?  That is yet another idea you normals seem to be born with that I wasn’t.  If I have to be constantly depressed, anxious, angry, and mopey to be considered an adult, then screw it.  I want no part of it.  I just see too much possibility and good things happening in the world to be consumed by worry.  Even your religious texts tell you to ‘not let your hearts be troubled’ and ‘don’t worry about the future.’  Seems to me these texts need to be spoken from the pulpits more than fear, hate, and wrath.

We are living in cool times with progress being made every hour of every day.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, health, and humanitarian efforts are being made all over the world.  It’s not just the U.S. who has advanced technology, advanced research, and freedom.  The world is not falling apart.  The world is not going to hell in a hand basket.  The past is not better than the present.  And I am saddened and tired of hearing  doom and gloom from people who don’t bother to look at the facts and numbers nor look out how far we’ve come just in the last few generations, let alone since we left the caves.  Make no mistake, we will continue to make progress in spite of your complaints and fears that the world is falling apart.  The doers and achievers of the world ain’t listening to the Chicken Littles of the world.  I may not be a great achiever but I’m not listening to the doomsayers either.  I have had enough.  I have heard doom and gloom my entire life.  I have no idea how many supposed end of the world type predictions I have weathered.  I laugh at such predictions now.  I find it annoying that many people are giving themselves needless grief and sadness simply because they can’t or won’t look up facts.  We have the quasi magic Google machine and Wikipedia that would put the Library of Congress to shame at our finger tips. We just have to use them.  Keep complaining and crying if you wish, but I will continue to look up the facts and the truth.  I will attempt to dispel the myths in this blog.  To paraphrase Jack Palance from the movie ‘City Slickers’, normal people “really do worry about a lot of crap that don’t matter.”

 

New Normal verses Old Normal

 

When I was growing up as a precocious child in the rural corn belt of Nebraska, I was frequently asked “Why can’t you be normal”.  My classmates, the adults in my life, and even my own family asked me this frequently. I didn’t have the foresight or the courage then to ask “What defines normal” or even “Who defines normal”.

Looking back on it years later I know I never would have gotten any kind of direct answer simply because what qualifies as normal keeps changing.  In 1750 it was normal for two out of three children born in London, England to die before their fifth birthday.  Now in the developed world (and increasingly so in the developing nations) infant mortality is rare.  It is so rare now that if most of us were to look back five or six generations in our family tree, we would find that our most of our ancestors had more dead children than most of us have children or siblings.  That’s what breakthroughs in medical science can do.  As recently as my parent’s generation, most people were married in their early to mid twenties and had children within a few years.  Now it is quite common for people of my generation to not marry until their thirties or even not marry at all.  Back when my parents were in their twenties, if you weren’t married before thirty you were thought insane or gay.  Now the stigmas on both homosexuality and lifelong bachelorhood are in retreat.  Instances like these create new normals out of old normals that no longer worked.

There are things that go on now most people take for granted that may be looked out in horror by future generations.  Even though wars haven’t really been fought between developed nations since World War II, I can imagine a future where people will look back at their ancestors and wonder how we justified ourselves in fighting wars and proxy wars that went on for years.  Perhaps committing any kind of violence against other people will someday be viewed with the same horror we in 2016 view slavery, inquisitions, and wars of territory expansion.  I can hope, can’t I?  Perhaps in future years it will seem absurd for people to hate others based on their political views.  I can only hope so, otherwise I am forever condemned having to listen to people bicker back on forth about political beliefs on Facebook and Youtube when all I really want to do is chat with a few friends and watch a few videos.  I hope our obsession and splitting hairs over political beliefs will someday seem as absurd as Catholics and Protestants fighting during the Renaissance is to our 21st century sensibilities.  Besides it’s not like politicians ever invented any labor saving devices, cured any deadly diseases, did any serious scientific research, or thought up better and less cruel ways of living.  At most, they provided some funding and got out of the scientists and engineers ways.  Many of the most influential and beneficial people who made a difference in history never held a public office, won a battle, or sat on a throne.  Remember that the next time you take your political beliefs seriously.

Less dogmatic and hateful attitudes about political beliefs would be nice.  What would be even nicer is less stigma and discrimination against those with mental health issues.  Seems to me that having mental illness is one of those few things many people don’t feel bad at all about stigmatizing.  It is essentially stigma’s final frontier.  Every week it seems there are crime drama shows where the accused perpetrator is mentally ill or an introverted loner who doesn’t fit in.  It also seems too common someone with a mental illness committing a violent crime gets far more attention than homeless mentally ill people being beaten by cops or gangs of ‘concerned citizens.’  Funding for mental hospitals has been dramatically cut over the years, often leaving the most afflicted to either the street, prison, or dead.  It seems that prisons have become de facto mental health hospitals for a sizable portion of the mentally ill population.  I know that the stats are a few years old in the link.  But I have little reason to believe that the situation for mentally ill individuals in prisons has gotten much better in recent years.  The treatment of seriously mentally ill individuals, at least in my country, is barbaric and insane.  What did you think was going to happen when funding for mental hospitals was cut?  Did you think the problems of the mentally ill would magically vanish once the hospitals were no longer well funded?  Or did you think mentally ill people like myself are making our illnesses up and don’t need help?  There should be no wonder why I was so quick to self commit myself on two separate occasions.  There should be no wonder why I want to change my medications even after a few mini breakdowns.  I don’t want to wind up in prison or dead for the crime of having a psychotic breakdown in front of the wrong person.  You won’t prosecute the handfuls of crooked bankers who triggered the Great Recession but you will throw thousands of mentally ill people in jail because you don’t know what else to do with them?  Way to stay classy. This is certainly one old normal that is in dire need of a quick death and being replaced by a new normal of more understanding, compassion, and better treatments.  And yes, we can find the funding to do this transition if we care enough to do so.

Speaking of practices some currently on the fringes of normal society abhor, maybe even the age old practice of killing animals for food will seem barbaric to future generations.  If lab grown meat gains traction in future years it could.  Don’t be so quick to scoff.  In 1900, who would have thought Henry Ford and his insane motorized carriage would put the draft horse out of business within several years?  Or who would have thought in 1850 that John Rockefeller would find great and numerous uses for a scummy and sludgy nuisance called petroleum?  These two by themselves got rid of old normals and created a new normal.  The internet is a key example of a new normal.  If I was born even fifteen years earlier I would have never been doing this blog.  Who knows what new normals are on their way?  Stay tuned my friends.  Things are going to be getting more interesting than they already are.