Finding A Life’s Purpose With A Mental Illness

Feeling pretty decent overall the last several days.  About the only real issue I have right now is that I prefer to be awake at night and sleep during the days.  I still get outside a little everyday, usually in the late afternoons or early evenings.  I don’t socialize as much as I have in years past.  But it seems to me that most people have been in fouler than usual moods for the last several months.  I have abandoned Facebook and twitter, except for my blog, entirely because I am tired of dealing with all the anger and negativity.  I have enough chaos going on in my own mind.  I won’t be part of anyone else’s.  Seriously, is it so tough to be in a decent mood?  If I as a mentally ill man can force myself into it for much of the time, surely normal people can.  Maybe the reason I feel decent is because I am avoiding people in general.

I admit I’m doing less in some areas in my late 30s than I did even a few years ago.  Right now, I have no desire to travel anywhere.  I have no desire to ever hold a traditional job again.  I have zero desire for a dating relationship.  I prefer to be left alone most of the time.  I have less tolerance for rude and reckless people.  And I am definitely sick of hearing nothing but negativity all the time. At the same time, I keep in more contact with good friends.  I read more.  I do more brain building activities.  I rarely watch tv.  I make it a point to not watch the news channels (I can’t wait for those dinosaurs to go extinct).  I don’t measure myself by my job or how much money I have.  Not having a lot of money is not a big deal to me.  I always hated the statement, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  What a stupid idea.  It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a regular job.  It definitely doesn’t bother me that my sweat and toil is no longer making someone else more money than it makes me.  I suppose I never was going to make it as a corporate man.  And I definitely couldn’t make it as a politician.  I’m too honest and I don’t always tell people what they want to hear.

I can’t understand why so many people stay in jobs they hate or stay in toxic relationships.  I am fortunate to have some friends who don’t make a lot of money yet they love what they do, namely my friends who became teachers. I have some other friends who yes, they can’t stand their jobs, but they also have side hustles that could or have turned profitable.  One friend of mine worked as a gas station clerk until she finally decided to move to a different town and start her own business out of her basement.  I left my last “real job” in an attempt to concentrate more on my writing and self education.  These blogs are the children of those efforts.  And I wouldn’t want to do anything else, at least not at this current point.

Sure I made more money working as a janitor and factory hand in years past, but I have a much further reach with these mental health blogs.  Every day I have visitors from outside the USA. I’d say at least a quarter of my readers are not from my country. I hear from people of all ages, backgrounds, careers, etc. because of this work.  I get to talk to people of different lifestyles and cultures and I don’t even have to put on shoes or leave my apartment.  It’s a great job for me and my situations.  Sure it took years of struggle and sadness to get to this level of acceptance to where I can speak freely about my struggles with schizophrenia.  But once it became clear to me in my mid twenties that the mental illness would not allow me to hold a regular career, I found out that time was an great asset I possessed.  It was just a matter of how I was going to spend the next years of my life.  I could have easily become bitter and just dropped out entirely.  But with my love of writing and unnaturally high levels of empathy and compassion, I couldn’t be content doing that.  Once I learned that blogging could be a way of putting a human face on a mysterious and terrifying affliction, I decided to pursue this.  I had never heard of blogging until I was in college.  But it is something I am regularly doing and will continue to regularly do. I wonder how many other career paths will be created in the next 15 to 20 years that most people can’t yet imagine.

Once it became clear that my mental illness wasn’t going to allow me to have a regular career, I started pouring more efforts into my writing hobby.  At the time I thought I just had to write some big selling novels.  I wrote rough drafts for a couple novels but they never went anywhere.  I wrote poetry, but who really makes money at being a poet?  Finally I turned to nonfiction blogging because there was a need for what I am doing that wasn’t really going filled.  I guess that’s the mark of any good artist or business person, find a need not being met and filling said need.  I guess out of this blog I was able to salvage something positive out of what could have become a senseless tragedy.

Advertisements

Purpose and Agency

abraham-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs1.preview

This blog entry is going to be about the importance of finding a purpose for your life and having agency.  By agency I mean finding something that you can do with your given skill set that gives your life meaning.  We as humans do not exist in a vacuum.  We have to interact with other people and the environment around us.  How we interact can either be beneficial or destructive.  I have found if I just try being neutral and not standing out I become miserable.  I cannot go through life without working toward some goal. I have to have something to work toward or even work against.  I get lost into thinking ‘why am I here’ if I have no purpose.  This is true of all people, especially men.  That is why we throw ourselves into our jobs, our hobbies, our projects, our families, and our beliefs.

Having a purpose can be either good or bad.  Having good, constructive, and beneficial purpose leads people to build businesses, create great works of art, think up great ideas no one else came up with, and strive to better the lives of others.  Bad and destructive purpose, however, can lead people into joining street gains, terrorist groups, crime syndicates, and commiting atrocites.

I think of people as bundles of energy.  Direct them into things that allow them to channel energy into creative endeavors and you’ll ultimately wind up with civilization and means to improve civilization.  Yet do not allow them to channel energy into creative purpose, it will be expressed in destructive acts and chaos.  Part of me fears the reason we are seeing so many heinous acts of violence like the recent shootings in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana is that many people, especially younger men, feel like they have no place or purpose.  Granted not all people are not going to resort to murder or joining groups like ISIS because they don’t have a life mission or they feel they aren’t making a difference.  Others may be using their pent up energy to less obvious destructive means, such as small time hustling, petty crime, or even computer hacking and internet trolling.  It could be possible that one of the reasons that mental illness is becoming prevalent is that many people no longer feel they have a purpose or belong to anything bigger than themselves or no longer feel connected to their communities.

One of the things that gives me agency is writing this blog.  I write to explain mental illness to others who don’t know it personally.  I blog to give advice to others with mental illness who may be recently diagnosed or having serious problems for the first time and not know what is going on or what to expect.  I write to be an encouragement to others who, like myself, have been dealing with mental illness for awhile and still have ups and downs.

As my Definite Chief Aim, to borrow a term from Napoleon Hill, I am seeking to inform and enlighten others as what having a mental illness is like from the mentally ill person’s point of view.  I have always done well at explaining ideas and concepts to others and I have no fear of speaking up in public.  And there is a percentage of the general population who has mental illness, I think close to 5 percent for serious, chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, autism spectrum, major depression, borderline personality disorder, etc.  Many of these mentally ill individuals are unable to express the issues of their illnesses.  This is where I, and other bloggers come in.

If I were asked what I am working against, it would be ignorance and cruelty.  Too many people don’t know what mental illness is like for us or what a hinderance it can be.  Some people even refuse to acknowledge it even exists.  Yes, it does exist.  I, and others like me, are not making up our problems with crippling anxiety, our problems with alternating between crushing sadness and euphoria, or dealing with delusions to where we have to work to distinguish between what is reality and what is within the constraints of our troubled minds.  We do not make up these problems because we want attention or we are angry about our childhoods.  Our issues are not simplistic type problems that can be overcome only by feel good memes and other quick fixes that try to put a Band Aid on a gushing wound.

It is an understatement to say I do not respect ignorance and cruelty.  We live in an age of nearly unlimited information on any topic imaginable.  I have far more information at my fingertips through a $400 laptop computer and $32 a month wireless internet service than the scholars who set up the Great Library of ancient Alexandria could have imagined even possible.  Medieval scholars would have killed, and sometimes were killed, for having access to a tiny fraction of a fraction of the information I can call up at a whim.  There are no more excuses for being ignorant.  In 2015, ignorance is not a matter of destiny, it is a matter of choice to paraphrase William Jennings Bryan.

In closing, writing and researching for this mental illness blog gives me some sense of agency and purpose.  Ignorance and the resulting cruelty are two of the ‘enemies’ I ‘fight’ against.  We all have things we are passionate about.  We all have things we can do for others and ourselves.  It is a matter of finding those things that give us agency and purpose and then going to work.