Being Home Alone With Mental Illness Gave Me Time To Ponder Life In General (Or Philosophy From The Sofa)

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Haven’t been writing much lately  but that is mainly because I haven’t had much to report.  I have been quite stable for weeks.  Haven’t had any real bouts of delusion or paranoia.  The excessive anger doesn’t come up very often.  The hallucinations have subsided for the most part.  The ones I do have are more annoying than fear or anger inducing.

I don’t leave my apartment as much as I would like, mainly from the holiday crowds all over the place.  It doesn’t help any that many people I know seem to be in perpetual foul moods all the time.  It seems the older I get, the less tolerance I have for irritable people.  At this point, there is no way I could go back into working in customer service.  I can no longer stomach rude and angry people, even if I get paid for it.  Money is poor compensation for having to deal with uncivilized behavior all the time.

Even though I spend most of my time alone and at home, I still keep occupied.  Been reading a lot of science journals online and watching science programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  It’s too bad that more people aren’t interested in science and tech.  Both fields are fascinating, especially the last few years with as fast as these fields have been advancing.  The sad thing is I wouldn’t know about any of these advances if I didn’t specifically make a point of seeking this information out.  The media, at least easily accessible media, really does a poor job informing people to the current state of science and technology.  As much as people use these things, I would think people would be interested in hearing about these things.  I get that people are naturally drawn to bad news, it’s how we are wired.  I must be weird in that I just got tired of hearing about bad news and tragedy all the time and started seeking out what was going right and well.  I get enough bad news and negativity just from being mentally ill, I just don’t need outside sources adding to this.

In other news, Christmas is only two weeks away.  I readily admit to being tough to shop for as I am a practicing minimalist.  I really don’t require that much to keep me occupied and entertained.  I’m sure my family doesn’t find it very thrilling that I ask for things like clothes and home decorations.  I like electronics, but there are only so many I need as my computers do most of what I need.  I don’t need music CDs as I get most of my music through youtube and spotify anymore.  I don’t need movie DVDs as I can get everything through amazon and netflix.  I have got to say, having a high speed wireless internet connection has really decluttered much of my life.  Besides spending money on food, I just don’t spend as much money on miscellaneous things anymore.  Maybe the Star Trek economy where money doesn’t really matter that much isn’t three hundred years away.  We could be witnessing the early stages of it already.

I may not make much money but I still live what I consider a fulfilled life.  I know that many people of my generation and younger lament that many of us don’t have as much money or material possessions as our parents’ generations, but with much of living being digitalized, do we really need the whole four bedroom house with the picket fence and two automobiles in the garage?  What my computer and smart phone can do would have been worth millions back in the 1970s.  I probably wouldn’t even own a car except for occasional road trips.  As it is, I may not have a lot (not by American standards anyway), but I don’t feel lacking or poor.  It was just a matter of realizing what’s really important and adjusting accordingly.  It’s a pity that it took for myself becoming mentally ill and losing a career to realize all of this.

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Working From Home For Free and Thoughts on Tech Advances

I’ve been doing this blog about living with schizophrenia for a little over four years at this point.  Even though I haven’t turned a profit from it, I consider it the best and most meaningful job I ever held.  It doesn’t compare.  The only other job I ever held that was even close to being a mental health blogger/advocate was when I was working as an instructors’ aide as a graduate assistant years ago.  I enjoyed substitute teaching classes, grading papers, proctoring exams, answering students’ questions, and doing academic research.  It’s too bad I lost that job because of my grades in the masters’ courses.  I didn’t really care to be some business hotshot; I really wanted to get my masters’ in economics so I could teach economics and personal finance classes at a junior college or small state university.  This was before I found out that the majority of junior college teachers are part timers or adjuncts.  But then, many non management employees are part timers.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is so the employers don’t have to pay benefits.  I never got benefits at any job I ever held.  That’s why I’m on disability insurance through Social Security.  If I were to go back to work, it would have to be where I was completely cured of schizophrenia.  Many insurance companies won’t cover preexisting conditions and the suggestion of single payer universal healthcare in the USA is very unpopular.  So here I am on disability and wanting to contribute.  But if I got even a 30 hour a week job at McDonald’s, that would be enough for the feds to toss me out of the program.

Since I am unable to work for money because of the current system, I have had to find other ways to contribute that doesn’t involve me making money.  That is why I blog about life with a mental illness.  Many may dismiss my work as I don’t make money from it and I don’t have a large audience.  But many people do volunteer work and don’t see any money from it.  There are people who deliver meals to elderly and disabled people, people who hand out blankets and bedding at homeless shelters, people who coach Little League baseball, people who teach Sunday school, among numerous others.  A person doesn’t have to make a lot of money (or any money) to make a difference in other people’s lives.  My brother works as an engineer and makes six figures, but I doubt he has thousands of people in over 100 different nations that have seen his work.  My parents have done medical missionary work in Panama and had a reach that way.  And they made no money from their several trips.  Sometimes a person has to do something just because it’s the right and beneficial thing to do regardless if money changes hands.

One of highest paid professions in the world is as hedge fund manager on Wall Street.  And yet do they really build anything or create anything besides moving money (most of it digits on a computer) around?  I’m not anti business but I think there are better measures of someone’s worth to a nation or civilization than how big their net worth is.  I understand if someone produces a service, an idea, or an item that many people want, then yes that person should probably make something in return for the years of thankless hard work and hard times. The “overnight successes” often came to be that way through years of quiet hard work, having good mentors and studying their fields. If this blog ever became something like a best selling book or a well watched youtube channel or lead to a career as a writer for an online journal, I wouldn’t refuse the money.  I just hope I wouldn’t forget that telling the truth about mental illness and it’s related problems should be what my work is all about.

Ideally, I would love to be cured of schizophrenia and be able to work again and not worry about having to take medications every night.  As many advances as medical science is making anymore, that might not be the fantasy it was even ten years ago.  If I did become cured, sure I would have to find a job and likely update my education.  But that would be a good headache to have.  With my blogging skills, maybe I could get a job as a technical writer.  Or maybe by then machines will have taken most of the jobs and made living so inexpensive that money doesn’t matter very much.  Just in my life in the last ten years, with so much being digitized and put for free or near free access online, I can live cheaper now than I could ten years ago.  And if things like 3D printing takes off like most technicians and scientists think it will, money will matter even less to me ten years from now than it does now.  A farmer in rural Africa with a micro financed smart phone has more computing power and access to civilization’s information than did NASA in the 1960s when they were sending astronauts to the moon and back.  We are living in some cool and interesting times.  And right now much of this can be enjoyed by even lower class people (at least lower class by modern standards) for not much money.  And I think as tech advances, money may matter less and less with each passing decade.  Maybe when I’m an old man unpaid work will be the norm because machines do most of the manufacturing or farming.  It is some cool times were in even if the ride is bumpy and rough at times.  Stay tuned.

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.

Drama Free Living

It’s been quite quiet for me this summer.  I haven’t had any flare ups or episodes.  I haven’t even heard my neighbors arguing for weeks.  Somedays I wonder if I even have neighbors it’s been so quiet in my complex.  About the only time I see any of my neighbors is when I leave my apartment to run errands.  I don’t sit outside too much anymore just because it’s been so hot.  Fortunately we have only another six to eight weeks of hot weather left.  But I have been enjoying the peace and quiet.  I also enjoy not having flare ups or dealing with stupid and rude people all the time.

I used to have to deal with a lot of drama at work and in some friendships.  I haven’t dated for several years  simply because the drama and ups and downs just got old.  Having schizophrenia while trying to date adds a whole another level of difficulty.  And I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I have enough problems as is.  I also had to cut negative people out of my life.  Sure it meant ending a few friendships and being real careful about who I let into my life.  And it also means much alone time.  But it’s alright because the peace and quiet is worth it.

Another thing that helps me is that I am debt free.  That is why I can live as a minimalist and not work.  I just live on my disability pension.  Right now I can budget it out that I don’t have to resort to credit cards to make it through the month.  I don’t have to take a thankless and stressful job because I don’t need the money.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest reason to work for someone else is the money.  Being an employee, especially in today’s ever shifting and toxic work environments, doesn’t seem to be much more than glorified serfdom.  Why should any employee give loyalty to a company when the job can be taken over by machines, outsourced overseas, or just given to a younger person for lower wages?  If you’re going to be an employee, it’s best to go to the highest bidder.  An employer won’t look out for you.  An employer doesn’t care about you either.  Neither do most of your coworkers, at least that is my experience.  A boss isn’t going to help you develop your career.  You are on your own on that one.  I can do this blog without getting paid for it because I don’t have to worry about income or paying off debts.  And I absolutely love doing this blog.  It doesn’t really seem like a job because it isn’t drudgery like I was used to in my working days.  It feels more like a hobby that evolved into a life mission.

Since I don’t have debts and am content to live a minimalist life, I am quite free to write about what needs to be written.  Life with a mental illness isn’t pretty much of the time.  It is lonely, it can be frightening, it can be long bouts of depression and sadness, and sometimes I have found myself mourning over the career and lifestyle that never was because of this illness.  But, having this illness made me resourceful and creative.  It also made me smarter.  It made me think about many things that most people never have to.  It made me ask questions that most people would never think to ask.

Right now I’m dealing with a stretch where I haven’t had any real drama for months.  It helps that I have been able to largely avoid toxic, negative, and stupid people.  That’s no small accomplishment living in tight quarters like I do.  I’m pretty content to just stay home much of the time anymore.  I have gotten to where I feel naked without a good internet connection.  I imagine that’s going to become more common in the next several years.  I’m just ahead of the curve.  And I don’t have to submit to a bad boss or bad coworkers or unreasonable customers to make money because I don’t need the money.  I can get by just on my disability pension because I don’t have debts or expensive tastes.  I won’t spend a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans or two hundred dollars on a pair of sneakers or buy a new iPhone every year or a different car every three years.  I am content with what I have.  I love being a minimalist.  And that has helped me create a life with little to no drama in spite my mental illness.

Thoughts on Upcoming Graduations and Future Possibilities

College graduations are this weekend in my home state.  Some days it’s hard to believe that it’s been thirteen years since I finished college.  Other days it seems like it was somebody else’s life.  I am definitely not the same person I was then.  Back then I believed I could still work in spite my mental illness if I found the right situation.  Over the next several years I worked a variety of jobs; retail clerk, sales man, teacher’s aide, factory worker, loading dock worker, cook, dish washer, janitor, and now blogger.  Besides the teacher’s aide job, none of these jobs had anything to do with what I studied in college.

In my younger years, I was kind of resentful that I didn’t find a good paying job in the field I studied.  For awhile I believed that college was a waste because of this.  I really don’t feel that way anymore.  After studying science and tech advances for the last few years, I know now that it’s impossible to spend four to five years in college and expect to have a career in that field for the next forty years.  The science and technology is advancing too fast anymore.  Entire new industries are being creating and being destroyed every year anymore.  It’s foolish to tell an eighteen year old kid fresh out of high school that what they major in has to last them until age sixty five.  Most eighteen year olds don’t know what’s even available, let alone where their true strengths lie.  When I started college I never saw myself becoming a writer and blogger.  There were very few blogs in 1999 when I started college.  There weren’t even social media sites, good search engines, youtube, netflix, etc back then.  And that was just eighteen years ago, not that long ago.  Who knows what will change in the next eighteen years.  I might not even need to use a keyboard to write a blog by 2035.

As far as telling an eighteen year old kid that they have to stay in one career field for their lives, that’s asinine.  These kids graduating high school this spring won’t hit even our current retirement age until the mid 2060s.  We can’t realistically train these kids for lifelong careers when we don’t know what will be available by then.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this year will be working in vertical farming, yet in 2017 this tech is still in development phases.  Maybe some of these kids will be robotics mechanics.  Perhaps some will become technological nomads and just go wherever the work takes them.  Have lap top, will travel much like the hired guns of the Old West.  Maybe some of the kids graduating this spring will work on building moon and Martian colonies.  Maybe some of these kids will be among the first to have their children genetically modified.  I don’t know.  But I doubt few of them, if any, will be able to make careers as truck drivers, fast food workers, retail clerks, telemarketing, book keeping or most manufacturing.  These jobs will be among the first to be automated.

And ironically, no one else knows exactly what the future of work holds for these kids leaving high school either.  Tech gurus like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, etc. can have good ideas but we realistically can’t foresee what will and what won’t happen in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years. And politicians can say they want to revive blue collar manufacturing jobs, but that’s not going to happen in spite their best efforts.  We can’t go back to the past and trying to do so will only make the transitions to a higher tech world civilization even harder and delay the inevitable.  For all I know, by 2065 the basics of life could be cheap enough that working may optional for some people.  Maybe the only real jobs humans can do will be in science research and space exploration.  Of course I could be completely wrong and World War III knocks humanity back to the Stone Age.  What I do know is that as much change as I have seen since graduating high school in 1999, even that change is going to be dwarfed by what’s coming in the next couple generations.

Just Because It’s Not Paid Work Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Valuable Work

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Some of my critics will love to point out that I don’t have a “real job” and that I’m only able to stay alive because I am “leeching” off the taxpayers of my country.  To which I respond, “Let’s see you fight through a mental illness for twenty years that no one can understand and some even deny exists and then you tell me how much of a leech and a cancer on society I am.”  I have had people who I previously thought were my friends tell me I’m “wasting my life” not working some minimum wage drudgery because it’s the “useful”, “honorable”, and “manly” thing to do.  I have had former friends tell me my blogging about mental illness is “a waste of time.”  Needless to say such short sighted jerks I no longer keep in contact with.

Who gets to define what is honorable and useful to begin with?  I don’t remember getting to vote on such ideas.  By what right do now former friends get to tell me I am wasting my life and time blogging about living with a mental illness?  I can illustrate what living with a mental illness is like.  Many who are mentally ill are unable to articulate what living with it is like.  It’s a lonely existence.  It’s a turbulent existence.  It is a horrible feeling knowing I will never be able to attempt to achieve my dreams.  It is terrible knowing I will never have a family.  It sucks knowing that through no fault of my own I’m always going to be on the fringes of society.  And it scares me that I’m always going to be in poor health and probably die at a younger age than most people.  The public at large needs to know what life is like for the forgotten mentally ill people.  Many mentally ill people rotate in and out of jail because they aren’t getting the kind of treatment they need.  Many mentally ill people are homeless and not by choice.  Some, like myself, have to live on the outside of society looking in because we are not accepted by society as a whole.  It can be a very dreary and dark existence.  I don’t wish the ups and downs of mental illness on anyone, not even my worst enemies.

Why is paid drudge work considered honorable yet unpaid volunteer work, such as what I do with this blog, isn’t?  Why do I have to work as a janitor or a convenience store clerk to “earn my keep?”  As easily as we can grow food, build shelters, and harvest energy anymore, we don’t necessarily need what economists call ‘full employment.’  We don’t need several layers of bureaucracy or managers of managers or ‘inspectors of inspectors’ as Buckminister Fuller put it many years ago.

We don’t have 90 percent of our workforce on farms or factories like we did during the Industrial Revolution because we have machines and scientific processes that can grow crops and make goods far better than we could in bygone years.  I am convinced that holding on the antiquated and obsolete idea that everyone has to have a job is actually hurting us as a society and holding us back as a species.  Besides, when I was working I heard my coworkers and bosses complain and whine about how much they hated their jobs.  It seems to me that everyone enjoys complaining about how much they hate their jobs.  Hating your job, it seems to me, is more American than apple pie, the Stars and Stripes, or baseball. I never understood why normal people took pride in their misery and anger.  That doesn’t seem mentally balanced at all to me.

If there is a point to this post, it’s that maybe we as developed nations should seriously consider letting machines and automation take over as much drudgery work as possible, tax the workings of said machines and automations, and just give people a regular stipend just for being citizens of a post industrial nation.  Pretty much just free people up from the idea of having to have a repetitive and boring job just to eat and pay rent.  These boring and repetitive jobs should have been outsourced to machines and automations a long time ago.  And they will be assigned to the machines eventually.  No politician can prevent the automation revolution that is already underway.

How many kids grow up dreaming of being convenience store clerks, working at Wal Mart, or working on an assembly line?  No, kids grow up dreaming of being things like astronauts, artists, scientists, explorers, performers, etc.  It’s when we start telling these kids they need to ‘quit dreaming’ or ‘get a real job’ that they stop striving for the stars and quit fulfilling their potential. And I think that telling these kids to kill their dreams to do something just for the money is immoral and monstrous.

In closing, the next time you hear some supposedly wise grown up tell a kid or young adult that they need to get a real job or work for money, just remember that the most important job in the world doesn’t pay a dime of money to any of it’s workers.  That job is, of course, parenthood.

 

How The Internet Made My Mental Illness More Manageable

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Even though I haven’t gotten out of my hometown all winter I have still managed to keep in contact with friends and family.  Thanks to the internet I keep in contact with my old friends via Facebook.  And I’ve made several new acquaintances that would be friends if only we lived in the same town through the forums and groups I participate in.  I’m involved in a few futurists’ pages as well as some science pages.  I guess I really don’t interact much with other writers or bloggers, not as much as I should.  I used to belong to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild but I let that membership lapse as there weren’t many guild members living near me and few of the guild members were my age or younger.  I guess even mentally ill people like to spend time with people similar to them.

With my Wal Mart special smart phone I keep in contact with family members a couple times a week.  If my dad happens to be in town, he will send me a text message asking if I want to have lunch with him or mom will ask me if I want her to pick up something from Wal Mart.

Speaking of shopping, I don’t really buy that much in traditional stores.  I still go to the all night supermarket to get groceries every couple weeks.  But even there I find out about their sales and specials through the store’s web page.  I still get my psychiatric meds through a traditional pharmacy.  But even there I get automated reminders that tell me when I’m due for refills.  The only time I actually deal with another person is when I go to the pharmacy to physically retrieve my refills.  Even that may become a thing of the past in a few years if automated pharmacies and delivery drones pick up traction.

Most of what I buy anymore outside of groceries, fuel for my car, and basic home items, I now buy online.  When I buy books, it’s online.  When I buy computer games, it’s online.  When I buy movies or tv shows, it’s through amazon’s digital service.  I get all my music online through spotify.  Most of my tv watching is done via youtube or netflix.  Many of my computer games now have online support and updates.  I now buy most of my clothes online as I do have rare sizes.  Sure it is a little more expensive, but I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  As much as I appreciate second hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, even they can be a roll of the dice in terms of finding what I need.

Comparing what I spend now to what I spent several years ago on my living expenses, I’m now actually spending less than I was ten years ago.  With my social security disability pension being what it is, I make less than fifteen thousand dollars per year.  Even though that puts me below the poverty line, at least by American standards, I don’t feel poor.  I have access to treasure troves of music that would put any music collection of twenty years ago to shame.  Thanks to wikipedia I’ll never have to buy an encyclopedia set.  Thanks to online clothing stores, I don’t need to settle for clothing that doesn’t really fit or doesn’t look good on me as long as I keep my measurements up to date.  Thanks to online news and entertainment, I really don’t need cable tv.  The only thing I use cable tv for anymore is live sporting events.  Even at that I watched some college football games online last year.  So I really don’t need to buy a ticket, navigate a crowded stadium, and sit in the freezing cold to watch Nebraska Huskers football anymore.  I can sit on my own couch, grill my own meats, and not worry about anyone blocking my view or having to go down several flights of stairs to get to the restroom.  I’ll keep watching sporting events online even if I really have little interest of seeing them in person.  Unless, of course, the Colorado Rockies ever got back to the World Series or if the U.S. ever hosted the World Cup soccer tournament again.

I can get even medical advice online anymore, thanks to services like WebMD.  I can type in my symptoms and see if what ails me is serious enough to go to the doctor or not.  So I don’t usually have to go to the doctor unless I’m really sick or my mental illness problems are really out of line.  I haven’t had to go to the psych hospital in over three years but it is good that the option is still there.  Since I spend so much time online, I have developed some friendships with people I’ll no doubt never meet.  And I get to post about mental illness and it’s ups and downs in a forum that didn’t exist even twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago I would have had the same thoughts, but no means of recording them for a public audience.  I would have had to suffer in silence if I had these problems as recently as the 1980s instead of the 2000s and 2010s.  We are living in a totally different world than the one I grew up in during the 1980s and early 1990s.  And I’m completely glad for it.  I can hardly wait to see what other cool stuff and finding come out in the next twenty five years.  Thanks to the internet, I can watch this new world unfold and take root from the comfort of my own living room and not even leave my small home town.