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.

Having Access to The World Without Leaving Home or Wearing Pants and Shoes

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My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids.  They seem to be adapting to suburb life well.  They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services.  And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s.  Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard.  Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks.  But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at.  I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs.  I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself.  It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.

Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years.  I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice.  They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church.  My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s.  He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma.  I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.

I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away.  But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to.  I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now.  I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door.  Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too.  As I always had odd sizes.  Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny.  Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.

If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning.  I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer.  He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.

And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting.  I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off.  I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose.  The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine.  I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room.  I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT.  I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.

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Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers.  With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City.  Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find.  As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war.  I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.

Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past.  Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore.  There was an old song about having the world on a string.  I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet.  I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to.  I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.

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Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors.  But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born.  All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000.  Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time.  Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago.  I have hope.  Everyone else should too.

Friends

I must confess that I never was Mr. Popularity, not as a kid or an adult.   I may have not had legions of acquaintances I considered friends, but I am fortunate to have had a few I felt I could tell anything and not be condemned for my confessions or thoughts.  It was tough for me to make friends as a kid because I had different interests than most people in my town.  I loved reading about science, history, and foreign cultures even as a little child.  This didn’t endear me to the neighbor kids much as I didn’t really like tossing around the football, playing basketball, or any other games grade school kids are supposed to like.  I was usually one of the slowest runners and least coordinated children in my grade school.  Of course this singled me out for some ridicule from school mates.  Being the really smart kid who wasn’t going to hide his smarts didn’t help my social life either.

As a result of not having much for friends as a child in a town that was lacking for choices of friends compared to most places, I spent a lot of time alone.  I would often wander in the back yard or the allies and make up stories in my head.  I often continued these stories and characters for weeks and even months at a time.  I wish I would have written some of these down.  But I was afraid I’d be ridiculed for being creative by my school mates and family members.  Every time I brought home a piece of work from my art class I was proud of, my older brother and even some of my cousins would critique it and tell me how awful it was.  I kept a diary one summer in junior high but my brother found it.  After that I kept my creative streaks to myself.

My saving grace came from two really cool friends I met as a pre teen.  One was an artistic guy who introduced me to some really cool music like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, AC/DC, etc. that I still listen to occasionally even twenty five years later.  He also introduced me to cool artwork.  We admired everything from the Renaissance masters to Andy Warhol.  He taught himself how to play guitar just by listening to rock albums.  He became quite good and even played in a band for awhile.  Like myself, he too had problems fitting in during our school years.  When we were in sixth grade in 1992, he and I would be talking about the news from the presidential election.  While many of our classmates were discussing the latest Denver Broncos game or Michael Jordan commercials, he and I would be critiquing old Ross Perot’s latest television specials with his graphs and pie charts.  Naturally, our school mates thought us kind of odd.

The other really cool friend I had growing up was another artist type.  She and I thought alike.  We liked each other right away.  As she was home schooled until high school, we didn’t have the shared misery that was middle school.  Like myself and my other close friend, she wasn’t really interested in sports or popular culture.  Even in our early teens we spent time discussing art, philosophy, politics, literature, and science.  Her family and mine were among the first to get in home internet back in the mid 1990s.  She also taught me how to get free songs online.  I never did this because the internet was very slow and costly in those years.  And since it was old dial up, it tied up the house phone line whenever I wanted to go online.  Kind of tough to download the latest Green Day or Ice Cube songs when dad was telling me to get off the computer because he was expecting business calls.

I also had some other cool friends in my church youth group.  But since most of them lived in different towns and went to different schools, I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked.  We did spend time together at summer camp for a couple weeks every summer.  But it just wasn’t the same as seeing them everyday in the halls of school.

After I graduated from high school I moved onto college.  Even though I have more friends from college I stay in contact with than high school, the friendships just aren’t quite the same as the ones I managed to save from my middle and high school years.  I loved college.  Even though I was going through the trials of adapting to life with a mental illness, I had some amazing times.  Dated some more in college than I did high school.  But, looking back on high school, I think that my best friend being a girl was what killed my dating life more than anything.  Yet, I wouldn’t trade those experiences at all.  Besides, high school dating is pointless nonsense and too much drama anyway.

My social life dried up once I got into the adult world and many of my friends moved away and got married and had families of their own.  Fortunately, thanks to facebook and easy communications, I can keep in contact with my college friends and high school acquaintances pretty easily.  Even though I wasn’t Mr. Social Life in high school, I made an honest attempt to be polite and considerate to my classmates.  Sure I butted heads with a few kids in my school, but what teenagers don’t experience social drama and strife?  It’s all part of learning how to socialize and be an honorable human being.  And, unfortunately, the only way to learn this is to go through the trials yourself.  It’s not like you can have that knowledge uploaded to your mind, like in The Matrix movies.

Even though I don’t socialize much in person anymore, I still occasionally make new acquaintances online.  Most of these people have similar interests and participate in the same online forums and discussion groups.  Once I figured out how to sort through the various trolls and trouble makers, socializing and making friendships online became a pleasant experience.  Granted, it’s not the same as making friends in middle school, high school, or college.  But, seriously, how many people make their best friends when they are adults?  My biggest regret about my friendships is that I haven’t heard from one of my two best friends (the guitar playing guy) since 2005.  And, sadly, he’s not the type of man to spend time on facebook or going to class reunions.  Haven’t seen him in years but I still miss our conversations.  I don’t know if anyone makes the same kind of friends as adults that they made as teenagers.

Changes Within A Lifetime and Reflections on Generational Differences

I have changed in many ways over the years.  I’ve noticed changes in my friends and classmates too.  I’ve even seen changes in the people I knew in my parents’ age bracket over the years.

One of the changes I’ve noticed in myself with age is that I prefer to spend most of my time at home.  When I was a teenager I was rarely at home except to sleep or do homework.  When I wasn’t at school or school activities, I was at friends’ houses.  I preferred going to friends’ houses as my brother usually had his friends over all the time.  I imagine it concerned my parents as I rarely had friends over at the house.  I wasn’t anti social, far from it.  I just liked spending time at places where I wouldn’t be bothered by my older brother and his friends.  When I was in college, I usually spent time in my friends’ dorm rooms or in the student union when I wasn’t at the library or studying for classes.  I was on good terms with everyone at my small college, but had only a handful of confidants I felt I could tell anything.  Looking back on this years later, I know that most of my socializing and trust issues are because of the mental illness.  I probably could have had a larger social network than I did.  Yet I’m happy that I managed to stay on good terms with most people even if I was in emotional turmoil much of the time.  Just goes to show how powerful our minds are in shaping our reality.

Now that I’m my late 30s I prefer to stay at home most of the time.  I would rather host guests now than I would visit them it seems.  Granted, I do like to have at least a couple days notice before I’m hosting anyone.  I’m still self conscious about my place and what people think of me.  Sure, most of the negative vibes I get from others are manufactured by the diseased aspects of my mind.  But I guess I haven’t mastered my mind well enough to easily shake these negative vibes just yet.  I truly believe our minds are powerful enough to make or break our outward reality.

In my friends’ cases, most of my school mates are now in our late 30s or early 40s.  And many of them are having stressful times in recent years.  Some have careers not progressing like they had hoped.  Some have had failed marriages.  Some have had money problems.  Some of them have dealt with the deaths of their parents.  Some have dealt with serious life changing illnesses of their own.  Some of them are dealing with the highs and lows of raising children.  Stress and concern seems to dominate many of my friends’ lives.  Yet no so much for myself.  I guess I had many of my mental illness crisis situations happen to me in my twenties.  It stunk that I never had a career get off the ground because of schizophrenia.  But it did make me resilient and realize there is more to life than working and paying bills.

Sadly, many people don’t realize this until they are retired or get laid off from a job.  As a result of my friends having stress in their lives, many of them are more pessimistic about life in general than I am.  I remember how pessimistic my parents and their friends were when they were in their thirties and early forties when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I guess it’s my generation’s turn to be pessimists and overworked parents.  No wonder some jokers suggest that life doesn’t truly start until age forty.  Well, I’m about there 🙂  And as much as my twenties stunk, I managed to enjoy my thirties enough to make up for it.  Maybe it’s because being on disability pension I don’t have to worry about working a regular job as long as I stay out of debt and live within my means.  I can only hope my friends in my age bracket can someday find the joy and peace in their lives that I have experienced for myself in recent years.

I’ve also noticed changes in my parents and people in their age bracket.  Seems to me that many people tend to either become more calm in their senior years or more grouchy.  Fortunately for me, my grandparents were quite calm in their senior years.  In many ways, they were more accepting of my eccentric qualities and questions than even my parents.  But, after my parents became grandparents, they started mellowing too.  I almost don’t recognize the my parents in their senior years when I compare them to what I grew up with as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s.  They are more patient with their grandkids then they ever were my brother and I and our cohorts.  But I guess grandkids are nature’s reward for not killing your children when they were teenagers.  Many of the people I knew in my parents age bracket when I was a kid are now more calm in their sixties and seventies then they were in their thirties or forties.  Of course, there are few who are more sour than ever.  Fortunately they aren’t very common.

And the kids with their iPads and smart phones?  Well, they’ll eventually turn into productive members of civilization themselves.  People complained about my cohorts in the 1990s playing our Nintendo games and listening to our Tupac and Marilyn Manson music.  We turned out alright.  Back in the 1960s, people complained about the kids watching too much television and listening to The Doors and Elvis.  Even my grandparents generation were unloaded on for listening to radio programs, jazz music, and reading comic books.  And now we call them ‘The Greatest Generation.’  All young people do stupid things and the parents fear the end of civilization because of their tastes and tech. The best thing that happens to kids is they get out in the world in their twenties and work a few lousy jobs and date a few losers before they find their calling (or at least career) and their spouse or soul mates.  And then they have kids of their own and fret over them.  Makes me wonder what the teenagers of 2018 will fret about concerning their own kids come 2040 or so.  Maybe brain boosting implants will be their iPads or Ninetendo games or radio.  Stay tuned, my friends.  It is always interesting.

Easing Into Fall and Breaking Out of a Depression

Been rainy and cool the last few days.  Haven’t really gone anywhere over the Labor Day weekend.  Pretty much slept in, listened to podcasts, and talked to family a little.  I think my bouts of irritability and paranoia have passed.  Was having some problems with those for a couple weeks.  I find that sleeping more and avoiding rude people helps me.  So does eating healthier.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost but I am down one full shirt size since the middle of June.  And I’m not doing much besides eating more protein, severely limiting carbs and sugars, and lifting weights three times per week.

Overall I think I’m coming out of my traditional late summer depression.  It helps that the weather is cooler.  I always enjoyed cooler weather.  From this point of the year until early April I really don’t feel much pressure to socialize if I don’t want to.  Sometimes in summers past my friends and family would want to do things like go camping, go to baseball games, go fishing, or go to the park.  Sometimes I wouldn’t want to go but I’d force myself to in an attempt to break out of the depression I was in.  More often than not I did break out of it, at least for the rest of that day.  I would be glad I went out with them afterward but I would, unfortunately, be a little resentful when first asked out.  But I did make some good memories in the process even when all I wanted to do was stay home and brood.

I’m enjoying the cooler weather and the rain.  Sometimes during these rainy days, I’ll bring up some jazz music on youtube and just relax.  I like to read to jazz and blues music.  Listened to a lot of Miles Davis, Muddy Watters, and John Lee Hooker over the years while reading.  Cooler and overcast weather puts me in the mood to think, read, and write.  I do enjoy this kind of weather.

Reading, Beginning of School Year, Music, and Arguing With Myself

Still reading quite a bit.  I started a couple audiobooks in addition to the hardback I’m currently working on.  For some odd reason I prefer to be reading on at least three books at a time.  I sometimes lose interest in one after awhile and concentrate on the other two for a few days.  Then I’ll go back to the one I put on the back burner.  I spend a good deal of my time anymore either reading or working on my computer.  Haven’t watched much for tv or sports for a couple weeks.  As football will be starting again in a couple weeks, I imagine I’ll be spending some of my Saturday afternoons watching college football again.

It’s starting to feel close to fall again.  School started in my town and the college kids will be moving back in this weekend.  Even though I’m in my late 30s and haven’t been in a college classroom since 2005, I always enjoy when the college students come back.  College was some of the happiest times for me during the course of my “formal” education.  The weather has been cooler than typical August the last few days and it gets cool enough at nights that I have to pull up the blankets while I sleep.  I even wore long sleeves for the first time since early April two nights ago.

Been having occasional flare ups of irritability the last several days.  I’ve been going to bed earlier than usual to try to counteract this.  I’m also avoiding negative and rude people as much as possible too.  So I haven’t been socializing as much as I would like.  Such is the price of preventative maintenance.

Been listening to more music lately.  I don’t have any physical CDs or tapes anymore as I look all my music up online via youtube and pandora.  Why pay for tunes when you don’t need to?  My favorite genres of music are hard rock and jazz.  Strange combination I know.  I listened to a lot of country when I was in college but also mixed in heavy metal when I was reading or studying.  There really isn’t much I won’t listen to.  I do prefer the hip hop of the nineties to much of what is popular in that genre now.  I developed a taste for some of the newer techno and dance music in the last few years.  So I guess I haven’t completely shut myself off the newer music.  When I was a kid I used to get annoyed with adults who complained about the music and clothing styles of the “damn kids.”  I promised myself even before I went to high school that I would never become one of those types when I grew up.  Even today I lose my patience with people my own age complaining about younger people.  Makes me wonder why some people even have kids if they’re just going to complain and moan about them all the time.

Other than the occasional flare ups that are gone after a few minutes of inner dialog with the ‘voices’, I feel quite well overall. I’m glad I have gotten this far into summer without any true problems.  Hope things continue to go well.

Living With Very Few Regrets While Mentally Ill

 

I have my birthday coming up in a few days.  My birthday doesn’t mean as much to me anymore as it did when I was in my youth and early adulthood.  I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m not going to get younger or stronger as I age.  I accept that things on my body are going to start wearing out.  I’ve even accepted that I may become forgetful and not have as rapid mental recall as I did in my younger years.  But this mental illness has become easier to manage than it was even five years ago.  Even my current problems aren’t overbearing like they were years ago.  Now they are irritable occurences that I just deal with until they pass by.  I really think my mental illness is easier to deal with now in my late 30s than it was when I was in the prime of my health.

I don’t worry about getting older.  I actually welcome it.  I’m not really that nostalgic about the past and I really don’t have that many regrets about my past.  I avoided all the major mistakes and learned from the minor ones.  I’m not tied down as much as many people I know.  I know people from my classes in high school and college who have gone through divorces, stuck in dead end jobs, paying off massive debts, in unhappy marriages, have addiction problems, and generally not having a very good time in their thirties.  My only true problem is I can stand to lose about 100 pounds.  I’ve already lost at least 25 pounds since New Year’s.  All I really did was give up fast food, give up most sugar, give up most bread, and drink only water and coffee.  Even my chronic back pain is gone.  I do occasionally allow myself thin crust pizza, but I go heavy on vegetable toppings when I do.

As cool as my college years were, in spite of the schizophrenia, in some ways my late 30s are even more amazing.  I stay in contact with my college friends via facebook and instagram.  I have all the music I spent a small fortune on in my teens and twenties for free on youtube and spotify.  And I even listen to some of the newer material that comes out too, not just what I grew up with.  When I was a teenager I promised myself that regardless of how my life or career turned out, I would never allow myself to become a bitter old man.  That’s why I don’t complain about the “lousy kids” or pine for the “good old days.”  I do have a few regrets, but the big one (not having much of a relationship with my brother), even that can be reversed once he and I start to put the effort into it.  We may not talk much, but that isn’t because we hate each other.  We just have totally different lives and day to day experiences.

I may not have dated many women, but I did have some roller coaster ride romances I don’t regret.  I asked out all the women I had crushes on in my life, got turned down by most of them, but I’m not wondering ‘what if’ about the one I let get away.  Just because I asked was a victory in some regards.  I’m glad for the dates I had, even the really lousy ones.  I don’t regret being stood up by women, or being rejected, or watching one woman I liked date one of my close friends.  And I don’t regret being unmarried at this point in my life.  I definately don’t regret not paying alimony or child support.  If, at some point down the road, I do meet my forever instead of my usual until whenever types, I’ll consider it an added bonus.  But I am not worried about being an old man and alone. By the time I get to be an old man, I may have a robotic assistant that does everything that a professional care giver would anyway.  I’ve lived 38 years at this point and experienced some cool things.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds.