Optimism and Good News

Been spending more time inside lately.  We’re currently in the hottest parts of the summer.  So far I’m managing alright.  I think it helps that I’m getting enough sleep and keeping my mind occupied through computer games and educational programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  I had to get a new phone a few days ago after my old one quit working.  So far it’s doing everything I need done.

In spite spending so much time indoors and not socializing much outside of internet and phone, I’m still feeling pretty decent.  I’m feeling actually quite optimistic overall.  Watching science programs and programs about what is actually going right in civilization while avoiding the negativity and background noise can do that to even a hardened mentally ill person like myself.  I do find it tragic that the advances in science and humanitarian efforts aren’t given more publicity in the media.  I get it that mass media isn’t a public service and they have to draw and audience like every other business.  And nothing draws a human’s attention like fear and anxiety.  There is actually far more going on right than most people will ever know.

Last Christmas I did a piece on science and tech advances that happened just in 2016.  I’m going to do this again at the end of 2017.  I really don’t think people pay enough attention to what’s going on in the realms of science, tech, and humanitarian efforts.  I wonder how many people know that over 90 percent of people in Africa have access to cell phones.  Granted the same CNN article states that only 63 percent of people in Africa have access to piped water and only 30 percent to flushing toilets.  But both of those numbers are better than many people in the developed world thought they would be.  And this article was written in 2016.

When my parents were first married in the early 1970s, many people were worried about overpopulation and as a result my parents decided to have only two kids.  Fast forward 45 years and many countries, especially in the developed world, are actually experiencing decreasing populations.  USA would have the same problem if it wasn’t for many immigrants still wanting to come here.  The fears of overpopulation didn’t come to fruition because as people became more prosperous and better educated, they started having fewer kids and investing more in the one or two kids they did have.  The population is still growing, yes, but that is far more because people no longer die like flies than breed like rabbits.  Smallpox is eradicated and polio is all but eradicated.

There were similar fears about acid rain in the 1970s.  But we as a species, especially scientists and engineers, saw that this could become a problem eventually and we adapted.  As a result, the worst didn’t happen.  Right now there are fears about climate issues and what could happen within the next several decades.  But few people realize that air pollution has actually gone down in many countries and industrializing countries like China and India are going forward with non polluting energy sources now that the prices are more competitive with traditional fuel sources.  My country may have pulled out of the Paris Agreements, but that was my federal government and not individual peoples or state governments.  And in the USA, regardless of individual political beliefs, most people do not approve of the leadership our federal officials are offering.  So many state and local governments are taking it on themselves to develop non polluting energy sources.  I may live in a state where many people aren’t sold on the sciences being climate changes but that doesn’t stop people from putting up wind generators and solar panels.  In my own family, my parents have been using solar panels since the 1980s.  Many people don’t know that the largest state for wind power generation is Texas, a traditionally oil rich state.  Just because a person may not be sold on the hard science doesn’t mean they can’t or aren’t doing their parts to bring about less toxic energies and use less fuel.  Can you imagine how bad pollution and oil issues would be if we had the same cars from the 60s and 70s?  When my father was in the military, he had a street racer car that got less than 9 miles to the gallon in gas.  Pickup trucks now get much better than that, let alone family sedans or smaller cars.  My dad said about his hot rod, “it would pass everything on the road besides a gas station.”  Science is saving our bacon right now, more so than governments or most other established large institutions.

I’m also encouraged by the prospects of private individuals and companies taking on space exploration.  We aren’t living my parents’ space race when it was just Russia and USA doing the work.  There are many things I am encouraged and optimistic about.  But I did not get this way getting information just from traditional sources.  I had to use search engines.  I had to go to science specific websites and journals.  I had to specifically look for the science information because most of it wasn’t being reported in traditional mass media.  But traditional mass media is in decline and will eventually break apart if they don’t adapt to the new realities.  And that doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.  I’m tired of hearing about what is going wrong all the time.  I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.  I want to know what’s going well and what we’re improving.  I have dig deeper than most people, but I am finding out some of what’s going right.  Maybe more research labs and universities should hire publicity firms to better promote what’s going on.  I think many people would be interested providing the information is presented in the right ways.

Advertisements

Optimism and Mental Illness

Optimism and mental illness are two things that probably don’t normally go together.  Yet after fighting through a mental illness for almost twenty years and still being in one piece and still functional, I think I’ve more than earned the right to be an optimist.  And I think being an optimist is a right that too few people take advantage of.

Why shouldn’t I be an optimist?  I have access to a world wide audience through the technological achievement that is the internet.  Fifteen years ago when I started writing poetry in my spare time, I had never even heard of a blog.  Youtube didn’t exist and neither did Facebook.  Even though I don’t make much money from my writings, I have a much bigger audience now than I could have imagined ten years ago.  From the numerous messages I get from readers, I know I’m making a difference.  That’s more than I thought would happen in 2006 after I lost my job at the university and applied for disability.  Back then I thought I was going to be condemned to a life of poverty and quiet desperation.  I also thought I lost most purpose for my life as it became painfully obvious I could never hold a regular job and support myself.  Yet here I am in 2017 with a decent blog, relatively stable mental state, and I’m still here.  Sure I may die earlier than most people without mental illness, but thanks to the internet, modern medicine, advanced counseling techniques, and social safety nets, I have been able to tell my story about living with a mental illness.  Hopefully I’ve been able to dispel some myths about mental illness and break down some barriers.  I just hope that the conversation about mental illness will continue.  As far as I can tell, the mentally ill are among the last people that it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against.  I hope to be part of changing that nonsense.

After surviving with mental illness for twenty years and still being functional and able to live on my own, I have become more optimistic now at age 36 than I was at age 16.  I have gotten optimistic enough that I have found myself less and less tolerant of pessimist, naysayers, and those who spew doom and gloom.  I have left friendships with people who were incurable pessimists.  Though you wouldn’t know it from the news sites, but we are actually living in some of the most prosperous and peaceful times in history.  Of course you aren’t going to hear this from politicians and news casts because news casts and politicians depend on attention and we humans are naturally more likely to notice bad news and threats.  It served us well when we were ice age hunter gatherers but it’s causing us in the more settled and civilized world undue stress and anxiety.  I can tell you from personal experience that most of what people worry about either never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  One of the reasons I refuse to watch the news is that it’s nothing but bad news all the time.  You hear nothing about science advances, humanitarian efforts, or any kind of good news.  But good news isn’t fit to print, now is it?  And I for one am tired of always hearing bad news and doom.  If one were to listen to the “experts”, the world has always been heading for tragedy.  The sky is not falling.  We’ve had problems in the past but we solved them.  We’ll continue to solve our current and future problems.  Mark my words.

After surviving the worst of what schizophrenia has to offer, I have no patience for pessimists and doom sayers.  Sell that snake oil to someone else.  While you worry about problems and do nothing to solve said problems, there are far more people than you will ever know working on solving the world’s problems.  Quit worrying already.

Routines

I did go and do some shopping on Black Friday.  That is, if grocery shopping counts.  Bought enough food to last several days.  I haven’t eaten fast food in a few days as I’m doing my own cooking again.  I’ve also had some of my psych meds doses lowered as I’ve been stabilizing for a few weeks.  I sleep a little less now.  I’m staying up later again but I really don’t drink that much caffeine.  I have all but given up coffee and I usually have only one or two soda pops a day.  I notice I feel less tense and short tempered since cutting back on the caffeine.

I’m back to eating less too.  For several weeks I was practically living off fast food and I have no doubt my health suffered.  Now that I’m back to cooking my own meals and eating healthier I am gradually noticing small improvements.  My stamina is beginning to come back, I am not as irritable, I am not as short tempered, my flare ups aren’t as bad, and I’m getting better sleep.  I think I have also lost a few pounds as my clothes are fitting a little looser.

I’m looking forward to winter even though I missed the summer with back problems and had more stress than usual during the fall.  I love the chilly weather, I don’t mind shoveling snow, I love spending time with family over Christmas, I enjoy watching college football games all day on New Year’s, and I like making cold weather food like potato and cheese soup and chili.  My Christmas shopping is done as I just did everything online this year.

I didn’t get what I wanted accomplished health wise this year.  I gained back much of the weight I had lost in 2014 and 2015.  Some of this came after I hurt my back and lost a summer’s worth of exercise.  Some of this came as I was more depressed and unstable this year than some of my previous years.  But for the last few weeks I’ve been having more of a sense of stability than I have had for months.  I’ve actually gotten some of my more healthy routines going again.  I still don’t socialize much in my apartment complex as I’m trying to avoid negative and depressing people.  I’m gradually getting back on Facebook.  I avoided it as much as I could for most of the fall.  But now that winter is almost here I’m getting to where I want to socialize to break up some of the colder, slower days.

Minimalism, Optimism, and Freedom with Mental Illness

clutter-2

In the classic movie ‘Forrest Gump’, there was a line that went like “there’s only so much you need and the rest is just for show.”  After a couple of years of practicing minimalism I know that is a fact.  There really is only so much a person needs to really be content in life. I don’t have any music CDs or DVDs because I have all of that held by my computer via my subscriptions to Netflix, Curiosity Stream, and Spotify.  I have my books but I am seriously considering buying a Kindle or another cheap e-reader and putting a bunch of free books on it.  I don’t have a lot of trinkets in my house.  Besides a few art pieces done by friends and my framed World Series ticket stub from when my Rockies made the World Series I don’t have much for decorations.  The only real extravagance  I have for decorations is the world map where I put in push pins in every country I had a visitor from.  I have food in my fridge and pantry.  I have some emergency supplies so I could ride out a blizzard or emergency for a few days without power if need be.  I have my car which I use mainly to buy groceries and run occasional errands.  I’ve gotten to where I usually buy gas only once a month unless I’m making road trips during the summer.  I banked some of my insurance settlement money as another emergency fund.  I already had an emergency fund that I keep outside of the bank.  My medicaid covers my medications and psych doctor visits.  I have learned how to live on what social security pays me.  I have zero for debts.  I have two computers and central heating.  Heck, I dare say that even though I’m on social security disability insurance and officially living under the poverty line for U.S. standards in 2016, I live better than the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts did back in the late 1800s.  Thank God for technology and knowledge.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m bragging.  But I am happy that I have gotten out of debt, stayed out of debt, didn’t end up in a bad relationship or divorced paying child support for kids I’m hardly ever allowed to see, and avoided a lot of other problems that could have come with being mentally ill.  I’m glad I don’t have kids because I fear passing on genetic tendencies for mental illness and I know with schizophrenia I would have made a lousy father.  I am glad I got out of debt and learned how to have cheap tastes because I don’t have to take a job just for the money.  I don’t work right now because I really don’t need the money.  I also don’t need the headaches of office politics and putting up with whiny and lazy coworkers.  I left my last job because I didn’t need the money and the job was becoming more of a headache than it was worth.  Being in the position where I don’t have to accept a lousy job or put up with coworkers’ nonsense is a sense of power that not many people I know have.

Some of my critics will no doubt say that I can do this only because I am on the government dole.  Years ago with mental illness, I’d be locked up in an insane asylum and probably costing the taxpayers more than I am now with less effective results. With me living in the community on disability, my community was able to get several years of labor and taxes out of me that they wouldn’t have gotten fifty years ago.  The community also received my blog entries, which from messages I have gotten from readers, are making a difference.  Some may think I am spoiled by being able to live in the community and take psych medications at tax payer expense.  What’s wrong with that?  Everybody alive today benefits from inventions and innovations they had nothing to do with.  Everybody with electricity today had little to nothing to do with the research that people like Michael Farraday, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and George Westinghouse did back in the 1800s to make electric power possible.  A significant percentage of the people living today would be dead or never born if it wasn’t for anti biotic drugs.  Surely that doesn’t spoil anyone or make them less productive.

one-69528_640

Because of advances in science and technology along with advances in the social safety nets, I can live pretty well off very little.  I have access to much of history’s music through Spotify for only ten dollars a month.  I have access to the world’s cumulative knowledge and wisdom won through centuries of toil, tears, and blood through a wireless internet collection that costs only one dollar a day.  I don’t need in encyclopedia for research when I have wikipedia and search engines.  I don’t need to write letters to friends when I can just hit them up on Facebook.  I don’t need to buy a newspaper when I can go online to get my news or craigslist.com for classified ads.  I can reach an international audience with this blog for pennies a day in advertising and I have a much further reach than when I started writing a dozen years ago.  Back then I wasn’t known outside of the few people who bought some of my print on demand poetry and essays books.  Much of what I am doing right now would seem like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers type of science fiction magic to my grandparents generation back in the 1950s.  Even the Wal Mart special smart phone I have is more advanced than Captain Kirk’s mobile communicator from the original ‘Star Trek.’  And I have access to all of this and more even though I am a minimalist, on disability insurance, a single man, and living in a smaller town in a largely rural farming state.

Because my hobbies and entertainments don’t cost much I don’t need that much money.  Splurging for me is going to a sports bar with a couple college friends when they come to visit.  Or buying $60 worth of used books on amazon or picking up a couple cheap computer games.  Extravagance for me is going camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota or the mountains of Colorado.  A good time for me is getting to see my nephews and niece. I may not have a large income, a big house, a fancy car, a designer wardrobe, or prestige.  But I have come to realize over the years with a mental illness I don’t need these things to be content and happy.  I need only a fraction of the things I was told I needed to have a decent life when I was growing up.  I really don’t have to make any more major purchases for the foreseeable future.  Other than the ups and downs of my mental illness I am living quite well.  Now that the insanity of the election has passed I may not have to worry about so many ups and downs anymore.  Life is going well for me.

 

Optimism, Delusional Thinking, and Schizophrenia

Optimism and schizophrenia are two things that normally wouldn’t go together.  Few who suffer from this mental illness would tell anyone that their hallucinations and delusional thoughts are conducive to optimism.  Most of my personal hallucinations are voices telling me all the things I’m doing wrong or how I’m angering the people in my life.  Fortunately for me my hallucinations aren’t usually loud or overbearing.  They are often whispers or low volume, much like the play by play commentary of a ballgame on television.  My hallucinations have never told me to hurt anyone or myself.  So for that alone I can be optimistic that my schizophrenia is manageable.  It does cause me irritation and anxiety that the voices are almost always there.  But, in my case, the paranoia has to be the worst.

I have had issues with paranoia even before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  I didn’t keep journals or do any writing on my own when I was growing up because I saw my brother reading the journal I kept one summer while in junior high.  I was afraid to record my thoughts as I didn’t have a lock on my bedroom door and my parents often entered my bedroom when I wasn’t there.  Once when I was in junior high I lost over $60 in birthday money.  For years I was convinced my brother stole it.  I never confronted him about it because I was paranoid the problems it would cause would be even worse than suffering in silence.  I was paranoid enough to believe my parents wouldn’t take my side in the argument and I still wouldn’t get my money back.  To this day I never found that money nor have I ever confronted my brother to see if he took that money.  I don’t know if he did or not and probably doesn’t remember it anyway.  My paranoias involve fearing people are going through my trash, people are listening in on my phone conversations, that I’m being watched every time I step out in public, etc.

I could have worse delusions.  I met some schizophrenic when I was a guest speaker at the state mental hospital that was convinced people were trying to poison his food.  I met another mentally ill man one time when I was in hospital that was convinced he was going to prison for a minor offense and wanted to hang himself.  He was on suicide watch and that was scary seeing someone that distressed.  I have met people who had great careers and families and lost them both once their mental illness took full effect later in life than mine started.  In my case my problems started in my late teens and for years I was under the delusion that I would overcome my illness and still go on to have the career and family I had dreamed about since I was five years old.

I realized I was having problems that weren’t going away on their own when I was a junior in high school.  I didn’t think much of my problems at first because most teenagers I knew were often moody and mean. It was when it was constant and interfering with my school work and activities that I decided to self medicate.  I didn’t turn to marijuana or alcohol, I turned to herbal remedies.  A friend of mine who had a rather unhealthy distrust of modern medicine recommend I try things like St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, multivitamins, and fish oil pills.  I try numerous combinations of these for two years with no noticeable effect.  Non modern medicines may work for some cases but my case wasn’t one of those.  I may have been delusional enough to believe I could treat my mysterious problems on my own.  But I have to be optimistic that I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that modern medicine was ineffective and some elaborate conspiracy.  Some people I know are delusional enough to believe that even without schizophrenia.

Some people I met were religious people who believed that I needed to pray more and be more faithful to God.  I was already the most knowledgeable student in my Sunday school classes since I was four years old.  I read the Bible almost daily to where I had read the entire book at least a few times.  I was more faithful to the teachings of the Bible than most people three to five times my age as a teenager.  For a short while in junior high I even thought about the ministry as a career.  But none of the prayers eased my anguish or calmed my delusions and fears.  Even though I went to a Christian college I was attending church maybe only two to three times a month.  I got to where I was aggravated watching people I knew who didn’t take religion as seriously as I did just seemingly coast through college and life.  I was thinking, ‘Alright God, what are they doing that I’m not.’

Finally a couple years after college I stopped going to church entirely.  It wasn’t because I was mad at any one person, but because it no longer made sense to invest that much into something that had no results.  None of the prayers or Bible studies did anything to alleviate my delusions or allow me to cope with my paranoias.  It just got to where it seemed senseless, unproductive, and even delusional.  I don’t know if God exits or not.  But I do know if the only thing keeping someone from hurting and abusing others is fearing God, than that person is indeed a sorry excuse for a human being.  I do find it just lucky that of all the thousands of beliefs that existed all over the world and throughout history that I happened to be born into the one that was most approved by God.  If I was born in India I would have been a devout Hindu.  If I was born in ancient Egypt, I would have been all for Osiris and Horus and regarded the Pharaoh as a god.  So it just gradually came to me the idea of burning in hell for all eternity just for the crime of being born into the wrong religion, wrong time, and wrong culture was delusional.  Most of my friends won’t agree with me but let them.  I won’t convince them that if there is a God that God is indifferent (that’s what the evidence I’ve seen so far convinces me).  And they won’t convince me that God will send someone to hell for losing the guessing game of picking the right religion.

As far as delusional thought goes, I am open to the possibility I could be wrong on anything.  I never got the memo that said I had to form my philosophy on life by my early twenties.  I am also not delusional enough to defend an idea I have that is being proven wrong.  Even though I am schizophrenic I have to be thankful that I don’t have the delusions of defending an idea I know to be off base.

 

Dealing With Depression

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

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

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

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

Things I DO NOT Believe In

 

This post is going to be off the beaten path of a life of mental illness.  This is meant to be both kind of fun and as a way to get to know your mentally ill corespondent a little better.  So here is a list of things that I don’t believe in.

 

Santa Claus

The Easter Bunny

The Tooth Fairy

Divine Intervention

Love at First Sight

Love is Forever

The Cops Are My Friends

The Cops Are Jack Booted Thugs

Nostalgia for the Past

UFOs

Faith Healers

Most Homeopathic Medicine

Vaccinations Cause Autism

Network Marketing Companies

The Power of Positive Thinking

The World Is A Terrible Place

We Live In Excessively Violent Times

Kids Today are Lazy and Worthless

Politicians Were Honest and Noble in the Past

Adults Know What’s Really Going On

Old People Are Always A Source of Wisdom

Young People Are Idiots

Money Back Guarentees

Shape Shifting Aliens

The Illuminati

Cryptic Messages On The Dollar Bill

Elvis Never Did Drugs

Music Died With John Lennon

Hip Hop Died With Tupac and Biggie

I Would Be Happier If I Was A Millionaire

The Novels of Dan Brown

Rock Music Promotes Devil Worship

Hip Hop Promotes Violence

Country Music Promotes Alcoholism

Jerry Springer Isn’t Staged

Reality TV is Really Real

Cable News Reports All The News That’s Worth Reporting

Property Values Always Go Up

Anything On Late Night Infomercials

Pick Up Artists

TV Evangelists

You Too Can Make Money On Youtube

Being A Writer Is Glamorous

Celebrity Worship

The Past Was A Golden Age That Was Friendlier

The Future Is Going To Be Terrible

People Are Less Moral Now Than In The Past

Anything Said By Alex Jones

The Lunar Lander Was A Hoax

The Two Party System Is The Only Way To Go

The War on Drugs

Politics Is More Important Than Science and Engineering

The World Is Falling Apart

Being A Kid Is Great

Being An Adult Sucks

Journalists Always Tell The Truth

Teachers Are Always Noble

Worrying Makes Things Better

Complaining Makes Things Better

Being A Pessimist Makes You Right

Being An Optimist Makes You Stupid

Most Talk Radio

Guru Worship

Hollywood Remakes

Everybody Always Gets What They Deserve

Cheaters Never Prosper

Honesty Is A Sucker’s Bet

Jocks Are Better Than Nerds

Video Games and Comic Books Are Just For Kids

Computer Hackers Are Fat Geeks Living In Mom’s Basement

The End Times Are Upon Us

Trusting Anything Completely

Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better

 

This isn’t a complete list of my entire philosophy on life but it is a start.  After making this list I realized that, in spite having a serious mental illness, I’m not as crazy as I thought.