Seasonal Aspects of Mental Illness and My Working History With Mental Illness

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I’m adjusting nicely to the summer.  Traditionally summers have been my roughest times of year.  I would usually be more paranoid and irritable than usual this time of year.  I could usually count on at least one psychotic breakdown every summer, usually in late August or early September.  Both times I went to the mental hospital were in early September.  So there is a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia.  Having dealt with this illness for close to twenty years I have figured out that there are times of year that are worse than others.  July and August are always tough.  The holidays season can be tough unless I avoid crowds and lots of stimulation.  Winters and springs are always pleasant and productive times for me.  I do a great deal of writing and reading in the winters and springs.  Spring has always been a favorite time of year for me.

But this summer so far I’m doing well.  I think it helps that I usually spend a lot of time out of the heat and avoid stressful situations and people.  Granted this means a pretty lonely stretch of the year where I don’t socialize much in person.  Yet, I still keep in contact with family and friends via phone calls and internet.  Facebook is a large means of promotion for this blog.

As it is, I don’t have a regular job.  Haven’t for five years.  Before I decided to devote myself to this blog and being an advocate for the mentally ill who couldn’t speak for themselves, I worked a variety of jobs.  Over the years I have worked as a salesman, a teachers’ aide at a small university, a factory worker, a janitor, a loading dock employee, a fast food cook, a waiter, and a tutor.  Even though this blog doesn’t even break even, I consider it the most rewarding job I ever had.  I have gotten many dozens of comments that have stated that I am helping them or helping them understand loved ones with mental illness problems.  I have been doing this blog for over four years, which is as long as I held my longest job.  Used to be I’d get serious anxiety attacks before I went to work and even while I was at work.  Many of these would be bad enough that I would vomit before I went into work.  After years of fighting these anxiety issues, I decided that working a traditional job wasn’t in my future.  I thought I needed to change course because I was making myself miserable over minimum wage jobs and dealing with rude and unreasonable people.  I have a few horror stories from my time working in retail and fast food.  I’m sure most working in these industries have far more.  As it was, I came to the conclusion that regular work wasn’t worth it anymore.  It it wasn’t for Disability Insurance, I would either be homeless, in prison, or dead.  So it bothers me anytime someone talks about wanting to eliminate these programs.  What kind of “advanced” civilization doesn’t care about the weakest and most vulnerable among their citizens?

I did not end up on disability by my own doing or choice.  I originally went to college with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a medical research scientist.  But my problems with mental illness got so severe in college that I had to change paths and even take a semester long break.  I finally graduated with a business degree.  The reason I chose business was that I wanted to be employable as soon as I left college.  Even though I love writing and reading, I had heard horror stories about liberal arts majors working minimum wage jobs because they couldn’t find work in their fields.

It turned out that I’m grateful I didn’t succeed in sales or find a banking job like I thought I would after graduation.  I know now that I would be miserable wearing a suit and dealing with people day after day.  At least with a blog I don’t even have to leave my living room.  No shirt, no shoes, no problems I suppose in my chosen field.

In closing I’m doing well despite it being a traditionally rough time of year for me.  I think the medications changes I undertook a few weeks ago are working.  And after twenty years of mental illness, I have figured out that there are some things that can make even tough situations much more bearable.

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Summers and Mental Illness

We are now a couple weeks into summer.  I can notice already that the days are a little shorter than they were a few weeks ago.  I got a new air conditioner as my previous unit broke down.  It was the original unit from when my complex was built.  So I don’t have to rely on fans and cold baths anymore.

Summers are traditionally a rough time for me, especially July and August.  So far I feel stable and calm.  I haven’t had problems with depression or paranoia since I changed my medications.  And I even sleep less than I did during the winter and spring.  I still don’t socialize much outside of phone calls and internet.  But I have been enjoying the summer anyway.  I still play a lot of computer games.  I’m also listening to a lot of audiobooks on youtube.  I’m currently working on the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.  I usually play Civilization or Medieval Total War on my PC while listening to audiobooks on my Mac.

I have beens staying up later the last several nights.  But I am still getting eight hours of sleep a night.  I still sleep in until late mornings.  I just stay up later and sleep less.  I like staying up late as I have been a night person as long as I can remember.

 

Feeling Better

I’ve been on this new medication routines for two weeks.  I’m noticing improvements.  I don’t feel very depressed or paranoid anymore.  In addition to a new medication routine, I’m also taking multivitamins and probiotics.  I’m noticing that I have less unexplainable aches and pains.  I am sleeping less than I was previously.  I now average 8 to 9 hours a night whereas during the winter and spring I got almost 12 hours a night.  Mentally I’m feeling more stable.  Physically I’m feeling more energetic and getting a little more active with each passing day.  I get out and socialize a little every day, even if it’s just when I go check my mail or go to the vending machine.  Overall I’m feeling better than my usual summer fare.

Summer came a little early this year as it got real hot in early June and stayed that way for two weeks.  Unfortunately my air conditioner broke down on me.  So I’ve been using lots of fans and a window air conditioner unit for two weeks now.  The repair man said I needed a new unit as the old one was over thirty years old.  That’s supposed to be getting done within the next day or two.

Have dined out only once in the last week.  For awhile when I was really depressed and paranoid, I didn’t do much grocery shopping and ate fast food at least once a day.  It’s no wonder I was feeling sluggish and lethargic.    Since I quit eating out every day, I’ve noticed I don’t have nearly as many aches and pains and I have more energy and actually want to be active.  I’m also severely cutting back on sugar.  I no longer drink sugared soda pop and I haven’t had candy bars or ice cream in months.  I may not be losing weight as fast I would like, but I definitely feel better overall.  And it’s all because of a few minor changes in medication routine and diet.

Being Delusional About Not Being Delusional

I am now throughly convinced I have been delusional about how not delusional I have been for the last several months.  I admit to isolating most of the time and rarely leaving my apartment.  I admit to rarely socializing with other people and tenants in my complex.  I admit to occasionally going days without showering.  But I don’t think I realized how delusional I was being about my problems.

I talked to my landlord this afternoon.  She told me that there were several tenants worried about little I was socializing and how unkempt I have been for a long time.  I have pretty much isolated and kept to myself since last summer.  I just got to where I saw no point in socializing.  In my delusion diseased mind, I was thinking most people are violent idiots who would rather curse you out and physically harm you than say hello to you.  Fortunately most of these thoughts are symptoms of my mental illness flaring up and not being treated effectively.  My fellow tenants and landlord aren’t angry at me nor do they want to see me thrown out on the street.  They are actually very worried about me.  I just didn’t realize how far I had fallen in the last year because of the delusion blinders I had due to my illness.

I have gotten to where I was scared to leave my apartment.  I have gotten to where I was scared to go to the laundry room and wash clothes.  So I have been doing most of my laundry in my bathtub for the last few months.  Let’s face it, it just doesn’t do the job like a regular wash machine.  I have gotten to where I am scared to socialize in person with anyone.  I don’t go outside to talk with  people because in my delusion wracked mind, most people were just bitter and angry all the time.  I have gotten to where I’m just scared and depressed all the time.  And I hate it.  I see my psych doctor tomorrow afternoon and I am demanding he put me on something else.  My current routine isn’t working at all.

Middle of the Night Ramblings

In addition to a change in the seasons, my routines have been changing too.  I now stay up well into the night but I am sleeping less.  I normally buy groceries in the early morning hours to avoid crowds but I have switched to shopping in the overnight hours.  I have also found good deals on perfectly good but day old deli items this way.  I think people would be sick if we truly knew how much food we in the developed world let go to waste.

Since I’m staying awake later I’m now reading more online articles and getting my youtube fix in the overnight hours too.  I don’t mind the solitude of the overnight hours.  Sometimes, thanks to Facebook, I can strike up short conversations with people from other parts of the world due to groups I’m involved with.  While we in the U.S. are asleep, much of the world is wide awake.  When my cousin lived in Japan, there was a fourteen hour difference between us.  I’d chat with her at 10pm my time and she’d be at noon over in Japan.

I don’t mind the overnight hours.  It gives me more time to read and write.  I sometimes get interrupted during the day hours by phone calls and people knocking on my door.  I normally don’t welcome interruptions, at least not initially.  If it turns out the interruption is a good one, like a phone call from my parents or college friends, I’ll be glad it happened.  I had one such interruption yesterday.  I was taking a nap over the noon hour and my dad called.  Had a good conversation with him.  I welcome such interruptions.  But if it’s someone trying to sell me something, I’ll usually either not answer or just hang up.  I feel bad about just hanging up on people but it’s more polite than yelling at them.

I’m still getting used to being up much of the night and sleeping during the morning hours.  But as backwards as keeping night hours is, it is better than when I was sleeping twelve hours a day during the winter months.  Overall, I have felt quite stable the last several months.  I still have my moments of anxiety and paranoia induced anger, but fortunately I haven’t acted on such impulses for a long time.  I did have a flare up in early February and one last October.  As intense as those were, they lasted only a couple hours.  I just hope I never have problems like those in public.  Most people still don’t understand mental illness or have empathy for it.  Seems to me that mentally ill people are among the last groups of people in society it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against.  But if other groups of people can break down barriers and be more socially accepted, then so can the mentally ill.

Adapting to Mental Illness and Better Coping

Little by little I’m getting into spring.  I’m starting to spend more time outdoors and I have had my windows open every night for the last several days.  I’m starting to feel like I have more energy.  I’m also sleeping less.  I’m staying awake later now but still keeping occupied.  I’m beginning to socialize more in person again.

Mentally I occasionally have had flare ups the last couple weeks.  Usually these don’t last very long.  Fortunately I don’t act out on these feelings of frustration and paranoia.  I have gotten to where I can feel bad and have bad days but not have complete breakdowns.  It has been this way for the last two months.  It is a confidence boost knowing that I can have a bad day and yet not act out on it.

Things are greening up in my hometown.  The weather is getting nicer with each passing day.  I’ll probably start going to the park again in a few days.  I’m getting to where I want to be outside again.  I have spent a little time outside everyday for the last few days.

Even though I occasionally have feelings of irritability and frustration and paranoia, I have learned to better cope with them.  If at all possible I just let them pass.  I no longer feel guilt for having feelings like this.  One of the things that helps me live better with mental illness is that I don’t have to feel bad for having rough patches.  I really don’t have to feel bad unless I act out in public or become destructive.  It took me a long time to come to this realization.  I don’t have to feel bad for having bad days.  I don’t have to feel bad to have moments of weakness.  I can’t always be at the top of everything at all times. And neither can any nuerotypical person.  And I no longer feel guilt about having moments of weaknesses.  That has helped considerably as I have worked with the mental illness over the course of my life.

Blasting Mental Illness Stigma and Giving Hope For the Future

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

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

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

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

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