Dealing With Paranoia and Shame

Even though I have been feeling quite stable overall, I have very little desire to leave my apartment complex except when necessary.  I am still a little paranoid about people I meet in public.  And I am somewhat that way about people within my own complex.  It’s sad to say, but I think I have developed a phobia of people in general.  I really don’t interact with anyone in person unless necessary.  Anymore I prefer to communicate by phone or social media rather than in person.  I didn’t used to be like this.  But anymore I am paranoid and scared to venture out in public, sometimes leading me to neglecting to run errands unless absolutely vital.  Anymore when I do leave my apartment complex, it’s usually at night so I don’t have to deal with crowds or strangers.  I’m even starting to become afraid of the people in my complex.  I am scared that many people in my complex don’t like me.  I suspect some of the elderly residents don’t like younger people on disability living in here.  But I hope that’s my paranoia being in high gear and nothing more.

My illness has changed over the course of the years.  I can more easily deal with the delusional thoughts, hallucinations, and anger.  But dealing with the paranoia and problems socializing have gotten slightly worse.  Anymore I desire to be alone most of the time.  Most people I don’t want to socialize with.  And it’s often because I am afraid of them. My fear stems from not being able to read unspoken cues and body language.  I also have no concept of how to deal with office politics and the nonsense social games that many normals seem to fair well under.  I don’t understand office politics. And it has cost me several jobs over the years.  I have no desire to “man up” and go back to a regular job mainly because of office politics.  Personally, I hope that automation takes a lot of these jobs and people will have to find other ways to define themselves besides job titles and money.  I had to once it became painfully obvious that my hopes of a career were killed by my mental illness.  Adaptation is the best strategy in living rather than holding on to a past that isn’t coming back.  I’m not going to regain my ability to work a forty hour a week job and I have accepted that.  And I no longer feel shame when anyone tells me I’m making my problems up or that I’m not worthy of living because I don’t have some remedial and repetitive job that will probably be taken over by machines in not too many years.  I know what I have been thorough and have dealt with.  No one else has.  So these people can condemn all they want, but their condemnations mean nothing to me.

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Changes in My Mental Illness

Started to restock my winter supplies and emergency food.  I am now set to the point that  I don’t have to venture out for several days if needed.  Lately I have been content to stay close to the complex besides running errands.  Mentally I have been stable even if I am staying awake most of the night and sleeping in the mornings.  Maybe that is why I am so stable.

I have gotten to where in my illness that socializing makes me paranoid and irritable.  I no longer enjoy socializing with my neighbors.  I no longer enjoy driving, not even across town.  I’m pretty much content to just keep to myself anymore.  Anymore I am my own favorite company.  I hope this is mainly paranoia and the illness, but I really can’t stand to be around most people anymore.  I would rather socialize over the phone or online than in person anymore.  With the holidays coming in a few weeks, I may be forced out of this isolation routine that has worked so well for me.  I’m not looking forward to losing my routines.  I am definitely not looking forward to the holidays.  I really don’t feel like celebrating much of anything anymore.  And I certainly no longer care to celebrate merely because the calendar and society as a whole tells me I have to.  Maybe schizophrenia really does get worse with age in some aspects.  I don’t have much for hallucinations or angry outbursts anymore.  But I do still have paranoia, delusions, and just prefer to be left alone almost all the time.  I hope it’s my illness messing with my mind, but I just can’t stand to socialize in person anymore.  I definitely can no longer hold a job.  I can barely venture out into my hometown without problems anymore.  I can only hope this illness stops getting worse as I age.  It has definitely screwed with every aspect of my life.

Insomnia

Been having troubles sleeping at night lately.  And not much I do seems to help.  I’ve reduced my caffeine intake, I take my medications right before I traditionally go to bed, and I try avoid being on social media right before I go to sleep.  Yet for the last several days I have been up for most of the night and sleep in the mornings.

I’m still getting eight hours of sleep every day.  It’s when I’m getting that sleep that is a problem.  Since I sleep so much in the mornings and sometimes take an afternoon nap, my social life has dwindled to near non existent.  I still get out a little bit in the afternoons and evenings to check my mail and take out my trash.  But I worry that my neighbors might be getting concerned with how little they see me.  Mentally I still feel stable, it’s just that I’m awake when most people are asleep.  Physically I think I’m doing better.  Having fewer unexplainable aches and pains.

Another thing I have noticed this summer is that I don’t have the appetite I used to.  I don’t eat as much as I used to.  Since I have been having back and knee issues for much of this summer, I have been forced into days with less activity and moving around.  It is bothersome being kind of housebound for a good part of the day.  Maybe this what I get to look forward to in my old age.  But the big advantage of not eating as much is that I think I’ve lost some weight.  I notice that my clothes are fitting better.  A few large shirts I bought several months ago are almost too big now.

I still keep in contact with friends and family quite often.  I have a few friends I chat with a little every day via Facebook.  I’m still active in my science and tech enthusiasts groups.  I still call my parents two to three times a week.  I have the old college friend I talk to at least two to three times per month.  I’m still doing fantasy baseball league.  Hard to believe that summer is almost over.  Even though this has been a long summer, it’s hard to believe that autumn and harvest will be here in four to six weeks.  The corn harvest is always in full force by October 1st.  I’ll have to visit the local farmers’ market this fall.  I missed out on that last year.

Even though I’m up at odd hours and I don’t get out as much as I would like, I still keep my social contacts up.  Like many people of my generation and younger, I’d feel naked without my smart phone and social media accounts.  But I haven’t gotten to taking lots of selfies or pictures of my dinners, at least not yet.  I sleep at odd hours but that hasn’t effected my mental health.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a traditional job anymore.  My schedules are more unpredictable now than even five years ago even though I am more mentally stable most of the time.  It’s that one to two percent of bad days that give me the most problems still.

Socializing and Decreased Hallucinations

Now that I have my medication situation under control I’ve been easing back into more of a normal type of life.  At least it’s as normal as a life of mental illness is going to get.  One of the aspects of my life that is starting to resemble normal is my social life.  Just last week I spent two hours outdoors chatting with two of my neighbors. Three days ago I chatted with a third neighbor for over an hour. Today I chatted one on one with another neighbor for almost two hours.  Those are the three longest conversations I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family in months.  I still make a point of calling my parents at least twice a week.  It’s not just Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day I talk to my parents.  I still go to counseling twice a month with the same counselor I’ve had for the last year and a half.  We have a pretty good thing going.  I also have a good deal going with my psych doctor.  I do kind of worry because both of these men are getting close to retirement age.  So I’ll be in the market for new therapists and doctors within a few years.  I’m so glad the subject of DNA testing came up with my psych doctor.  The medication I changed to was one my DNA tests said would work really well for me.  So the DNA testing has already paid off.  We might make another change within a few weeks.  But things seem to be working well enough now we might not even need to make a second change.

I’m also noticing I can now go entire days without feeling irritable.  I don’t even really get irritable while driving.  Since I usually drive a little slower than speed limit, especially in town, I usually get passed and sometimes cut off.  But neither really bothers me that much anymore.  And I’m beginning to drive more again.  For several months I drove only when I had to run errands or to visit my family.  I rarely made spontaneous trips.  And being in an auto accident several months ago didn’t help any.  Even though I wasn’t at fault in that accident I lost some confidence in my driving ability.  It’s now coming back.  I haven’t set out on a long road trip yet but I probably will this summer.  I try to take at least one several hour road trip every summer.

I’m also having fewer auditory hallucinations.  For me, my hallucinations were almost always voices. Occasionally I hear foot steps and doors closing that no one else does, which can be quite creepy. Voices and foot steps are the two biggest hallucinations I have.  If one were to watch me closely when I’m alone, you could see my lips move and I would be speaking under my breath. That’s how the hallucinations make themselves manifest. It no doubt looks very odd but hopefully it’s not as painfully obvious as some schizophrenic hallucinations.  I can have entire conversations with the voices and not even speak loud enough to be heard.  But since most of the voices are quite nasty and critical it’s not like the conversations are enriching or enjoyable.  But I’m getting to where I now have much more conversation with real flesh and blood people than just isolating and arguing with my hallucinations.

Changing Meds and Other Changes

I started the process of changing to new medications a few days ago.  And I’m noticing some changes already.  I have found I actually need a little less sleep now.  Used to be I got 8 hours a night like clock work, now I need only 6 to 7 hours.  I have even been making a point to get out of my complex more.  Went to the park for an hour and chatted with a bunch of neighbors on Saturday.  Found out three tenants are moving out within a month. One of those tenants was the grumpiest and angriest man I ever met in my entire life.  I mentioned him in a previous blog.  He’s one of these old guys who doesn’t believe in mental illness.  He believed that people like me were just making these problems up because we “are lazy and don’t want to do any real work.”  I hate people like that.  Guys like that are petty people and just have to make everyone else miserable.  Needless to say I won’t miss this ornery old man.  His impending departure was the happiest news I have heard in weeks.

Got out quite a bit today.  It was quite warm here today, more like late spring than early spring.  Currently have a baseball game on in the back ground.  I enjoy watching baseball.  It is more relaxing than football, that’s why I enjoy it more.  I’ve been out more the last few days than the previous two weeks.  In addition to wanting to get out and about more I’ve been wanting to socialize more.  I actually felt lonely today for the first time in months.  I previously haven’t minded the solitude and have actually wanted it.  But now I’m starting to actually want to socialize.

I’ve been listening to more music too.  Found out I like some of the newer dance, techno, and dubstep music.  Normally an older guy like myself would like only music they grew up with.  But I have never cared about when music was made.  Good music is good music, I don’t care if it’s Mozart, Louis Armstrong, old Delta Blues, John Lennon, hard rock, hip hop, or techno.  I never did like these old guys who always complained about the “lousy kids.”  So I vowed at age thirteen that when I became an old guy myself, I’d go easier on the kids than my elders did.  Been watching a little more tv too.  I’ve been watching ‘Marco Polo’ on Netflix.  If you are turned off by violent shows, I don’t recommend it.  But it is a cool show about how different cultures interact with each other.  Another series with similar themes I’ve been rematching is ‘Hell on Wheels’, which is about the building of the first transcontinental railroad in America immediately after the Civil War.  I still watch ‘Star Trek’ every so often.  But with wanting to socialize outside my apartment more, I may be finding myself with less down time.  And that would definitely be a change.

Getting to Know My Neighbors

We received over 15 inches of snow during this last snow storm.  It essentially shut down my hometown for a day and a half.  Fortunately we never lost power or water.  Since I was home bound for two days I had to make the best of that time.  Finished a book I was reading and almost finished a second one I have been working on for the last few weeks.  I also used the time to chat with one of my neighbors for a few hours.

This guy is roughly my age and lives on the same wing I do. We live in a low income apartment complex that is primarily senior citizens with disabilities.  Talking with him, I learned that he too has had problems in the past with older residents who don’t believe that younger people with disabilities should be allowed to live here.  He has also had problems with a few tenants who don’t believe in mental illness and think we’re just making this up because we’re ‘lazy and don’t want to work.’  He’s lived here for a few years and we have some similar interests.  He and I are both into computers and gaming.  He and I have similar backgrounds as we were both from small farming villages and we were heavily involved in school activities.  When I was visiting at his place yesterday after spending much of my day shoveling my car out of a snow drift, we got to chatting about our younger days, friends we had, and the stupid nonsense we got in as teenagers.  His path and mine didn’t cross very often as he has his group of friends and I have mine.  But we were friendly to each other and would hang out a few times a year.  But it never got to be anything regular.

I found out this guy also has schizophrenia.  In some ways he’s had it worse than I have.  He’s been hospitalized more times than I have and he wasn’t diagnosed as early as I.  Like me he started having problems in his late teens and early twenties.  Unlike me, his illness didn’t make him as socially reclusive as mine did.  I have always had a hard time socializing, especially with people I just met.  There are times I just don’t want to socialize outside of family and long term friends.  Hopefully this newfound friendship can open a few more doors for socializing.

Long, Drawn Out Winter Days and Mental Illness

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No we don’t usually get to see the Northern Lights in Nebraska, but this is a cool picture anyway. Where I live we are in the middle of winter.  Been a typical cold winter.  Haven’t had any major snow storms but have had several small snows.  Haven’t gone anywhere for the last few days because of the ice and cold.  It gets dark by 6pm and doesn’t get light out until around 8am this time of year.  So I have long, drawn out nights to just sit and be anxious.  To try to ward this off I usually walk in the hallways for about 15 to 20 minutes every night, usually around 10 or 11 pm.  If I go too early, I’ll be dodging too many people to get a good walk in.  It’s too bad my apartment complex doesn’t have a small exercise room or even a treadmill in the community room.  Stuff like this would run a high risk of being vandalized in here.  I’ve seen just about everything come up missing in this complex.  People have stolen even house plants and door mats.  I’d have tenants trying to pirate my wireless internet if it wasn’t a private, password protected network.

If I sound a bit irritable it’s only because I’ve been home bound for a few days.  I admit to drinking too much coffee on cold days to warm myself up.  Not only am I on a caffeine crash, I’m also a little bored by being inside.  In America we have a slang term called “cabin fever.”  This merely means that a person is getting irritable and anxious from being forced to be inside most of the time, usually during the winter.  I imagine it was an old pioneer and homesteader term.  While we have only a few inches of snow on the ground, the ice is still pretty bad.  I saw two tenants slip in the parking lot just today.

But I did get to spend a little time outdoors just last night.  We had a good snow last night with almost no wind (a rarity in Nebraska where we usually have wind almost all the time in winter).  Just sat outside and watched the snow for an hour.  May not sound like much but with a mental illness even the little things can bring a sense of peace and calm.

Not much going on during the winter months but short days, long nights, trying to squeeze in a few minutes of walking whenever I can, arm weights three nights a week, some youtube, and computer games.  It’s nights like this that make me look forward to the spring months of April, May, and June, my favorite times of the year.