Learning, Education, Work and Mental Illness

I was a sophomore in college when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia.  That was in the fall of 2000.  I had been struggling with depression, paranoia, and anxiety for a few years before I had my diagnosis.  At first I thought it was mainly just teenage angst and moodiness.  I was still doing well in school and was able to at least appear like I had everything together.  I was still on the football and speech teams, I was still making honor roll most of the time, I still had some friends, etc.  But inwardly I was a wreck.  I was fearful of going to the school guidance counselor as I attended a really small high school of less than 90 students.  Back then, almost no one talked about mental illness or depression issues.  It had far more stigma back in the 1990s than it does now.  The internet was still in it’s infancy, there was no youtube, and blogging was still a few years away.  So I suffered in silence and in solitude.

I didn’t talk about my internal problems until they became unbearable because, first, I was certain no one would believe me.  Two, I still had images of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in my head as to what mental problems meant.  Three, I was often told to “suck it up” and “others have it worse than you” even while in grade school.  Four, I feared appearing weak.  So I just suffered in silence for a few years.

As far as I know, no one knew about what was going on in my mind.  If people did, they never asked.  And I was too paranoid to tell anyone.  For the first years I had problems, I was still going to school full time and working on the weekends and during the summers.  I was so anxious and paranoid about going to work, I would vomit before my shifts several times a week.  Since I had spent my entire life listening to people complain about how much they hated their jobs (like they were proud of how much their jobs sucked), I was scared to tell anyone.  I just suffered in silence.

Finally in fall 2000, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression.  It was actually a kind of relief for me in that I wasn’t the only one having these problems.  I didn’t realize that mental illnesses were more common than diabetes until after I was diagnosed.  No one ever talked about mental illnesses in our family or my town.

For the next few years, I took full time classes and worked during the summers.  When I wasn’t in classes or spending time with friends, I was in the college library reading the philosophy and classical literature books that everyone talked about but very few actually read.  I’m glad I got to do that.  I doubt I could have done that had I not went to college first, at least not until the internet really got going.  But spending all those evenings in the campus library instilled a love for learning in me that still burns to this day all these years later.  Sure I wasn’t graded on what I studied and I didn’t get a diploma that stated I had learned such material.  But I knew that I did.  That’s all that mattered to me.

After I graduated from college and worked for a few years before qualifying for disability, I still read a lot of books.  I still do lots of reading, granted it’s mostly online articles, e-books, and audiobooks.  And, no, I don’t have any certificate that says I learned this material.  But it doesn’t matter.  The most fun I ever had at a “work” task is doing what I’m doing right now, writing blogs about navigating my life while working with a mental illness.  I don’t consider it “work” or “a job” because it doesn’t have the stress of any of my traditional jobs.  I love writing about my experiences and trying to be of assistance to others even though it doesn’t pay at all.  I don’t care that it doesn’t pay.  Sometimes, I’m glad it doesn’t.  For I fear if I ever were to accept a writing job or get pay for writing, I would be at the whims and mercy of those paying me.  Screw that.  I want to tell the truth, the good, bad, and mundane of living in the modern day with schizophrenia. I know what living with schizophrenia is like.  I’ve done it since at least my late teens.  I doubt any book editor or manager at a blog service has that kind of first hand experience.

I fear I couldn’t be completely truthful if I did accept pay.  I fear some boss would want me to “Hollywood up” my writings by exaggerating or being more dark just so I could get more readers.  I don’t want that.  I want this blog to be an educational tool and a means to communicate to others what it’s like to be mentally ill without it being threatening or divisive.  I do have good days with mental illness.  I have bad days with mental illness.  Some days getting out of bed and calling my parents is the best I can do.  Others, it’s writing a blog entry that resonates with some of my readers and getting a lot done.  Some days I just want to stay home and keep to only my thoughts.  Others I would road trip for several hours to visit friends out of state or go to baseball games, concerts, etc.  Some days I can talk for hours on end with almost anyone.  Some days I don’t want to even hear the sound of another human voice.  It’s ebb and flow, high tide and low tide.

Odd Facts About Me

I’m going to take a detour with this post and have a little more fun than usual.  I’m going to post on oddities about myself.  I’ll try to keep this fun.  So here goes.

 

  1.  I have the same best friend at age 39 that I had at age 17.
  2. My best friend is a woman.  When we were in high school we came to an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t make our friendship a romance.  While it hurt in high school, in the long run it payed off.
  3.  I started college as a pre med student.  I shifted to business after two years.  I mean, who wants to trust a medical scientist who got a D in Organic Chemistry?
  4. Even though I really had little interest in business and economics until I went to college, I’m glad I studied business.  I am really more interested in history and literature.
  5.  I spent as much time reading literature, history, and philosophy in college as I did studying business my last three years of college.  I spent a few hours every day reading at the campus library.  I’m glad I did this ‘dual study program’.
  6.  I haven’t been on a date since my late 20s.  I’m not anti romance or anti marriage.  I know myself well enough that, with my psych illness and personality type, I would make a lousy husband and father.  Now I love having friends and family.  But, I don’t do well with romance.
  7. I have several email accounts, most of which are dummy accounts so I can cut down on spam in my real accounts.
  8.  I don’t give my nephews and niece career advice or ask them what they want to be when they grow up.  The workplace is changing fast enough that even I had several different types of jobs.  I imagine this trend is only going to speed up in the coming years.
  9.  I enjoy reading non fiction books more than fiction.  Real life is quite interesting to me because, well, some real crazy things happen in non fiction.  And it’s non fiction because it actually happened in real life.
  10.  I wrote drafts for two novels in my late 20s and early 30s.
  11.  I find writing in first person easier than writing in third person.  My writer friends think I’m crazy for saying this.  But it’s true for me.
  12.  I like the comedy of Bill Hicks and George Carlin.
  13.  My likes in music have changed over the years.  In high school I was big into grunge and heavy metal.  In college I really got into country and blues.  In my late 20s I really got back into metal and added some hip hop.  In my 30s I got into techno.  I do like some of most genres of music.  I don’t have just one particular style.
  14.  Even though I did well in school in high school and college, I still wasn’t very confident in my abilities until I hit my 30s.  And it was in my 30s I found out that most of my classmates in high school and college were less confidant than even I was.
  15.  While I no longer work a regular job, I’m glad I had the variety of jobs I did.  Some of the jobs I’ve worked included retail sales, waiter, factory worker, teachers’ aide, janitor, and farm laborer.
  16.  Even though I don’t make money from my blog writing, it gives me more joy than any job I’ve ever done.
  17.  I never understood the trope about people not liking their in laws because my parents always had good relationships with their in laws.
  18.  Both of my parents worked full time jobs, but they had different shifts.  My mother worked the night shift as a nurse at a hospital.  Even with these different shifts, we always had at least one meal a day as a family.  And since I had a set of grandparents that lived in town, mom and dad would send us there if they needed a break from us.  I guess I had the best of all worlds as a kid.
  19.  I don’t socialize much in person anymore.  Yet I don’t feel lonely because I socialize via the internet and phone daily.
  20.  I don’t like fast food anymore.  I prefer my own cooking in most cases.  The closest thing to fast food I eat anymore is delivery pizza and Chinese.

 

Doing Well

Doing much better the last several days than normal.  Getting quite regular sleep, my aches and pains aren’t nearly as intense, I’m getting more mobile, at least within my own apartment, I don’t have as many issues with anxiety or paranoia, and I’m not even bothered by guests to my apartment.  It’s amazing how much of a difference a couple months can make.

I try to talk to family and friends at least once a day.  Even if I don’t leave my apartment every day I still attempt to socialize.  I still hear from my neighbors once a day on average.  After spending an entire day out of my apartment last week, I was able to touch basis with several of my friends here in the complex.  One friend I talked to for almost two hours.

I’m reading more too.  I’m now a third of the way through Wealth of Nations.  It will probably be one of those all winter projects.  I try to read at least one hour a day.

I don’t participate on social media much outside of close friends and family.  I am inactive on my groups.  I usually just read posted articles and don’t comment.  I no longer have the time, patience, or energy for online discussions and disagreements.

I still watch movies every so often.  Been catching up on some of the newer movies I didn’t see in the theatre.  In fact, I haven’t been to the theatre in over five years.  I haven’t even been inside a fast food restaurant in almost two years.  The only time when I eat fast food is if one of my guests brings in food.  Fast food doesn’t agree with me much anymore.  I prefer my own cooking or my neighbors’ cooking.  At this point, I would rather host guests and make a home cooked meal as opposed to going to a restaurant.  Besides, far more places deliver than even five years ago.

I haven’t driven a car in a few months.  I sold mine back in the fall to a friend of my dad’s.  My car wasn’t doing any good with me not driving anymore.  I just got to where I was too scared to go on the road.  I actually got a panic attack one day while driving.  I’m glad my old car went to a good home.

Don’t have much planned for the next few days.  Probably will watch the Super Bowl.  I have several friends who are Chiefs fans and a few family members who are 49ers fans.  I guess it makes no difference to me who wins.  I would just like to see an exciting game.  Even when I did watch lots of pro football, I watched the Super Bowl more for the game than the commercials or half time shows.  I used to go to Super Bowl parties when a few of my friends hosted them in their apartments.  Those were fun times.

It’s been quite amazing in that I haven’t had any bad flare ups for over a week now.  Even the few I had were quick hitters that were over within a minute or two.  Right now I’m doing quite well, far better than my usual for the last year or two.  I think it definitely helps that I am in more contact with my neighbors, family, and friends.  Going to the doctor for my annual checkup in December let me know where I stand and what I’m doing right and what needs adjusting.  I’m currently on a winning streak.  I hope I can keep this going for awhile.  It feels like things are going back into some kind of normal and more relaxed.

January 21 2020

Been an uneventful week so far.  Too cold to really go outside for long.  So I’ve been staying home and catching up on reading.  I’m now a third of the way through ‘Wealth of Nations’ and halfway through ‘The Prince.’  I’ve also watched some educational videos on youtube the last few days.

I’ve found myself being a little more easily irritable for a couple days.  So I cut back on caffeine and forced myself to nap a little more during the day.  It’s beginning to work.  Talked to my parents for over an hour last night.  Watched some football on Sunday.  As far as the Super Bowl goes, I guess it really doesn’t matter to me who wins.  I just want to see an exciting game. And I talk with friends on facebook a little every day.  I sometimes forget it wasn’t always this easy to keep in touch with friends and family.  I don’t participate much in my groups these days as I mostly use facebook to talk to old friends and extended family.  I don’t watch news anymore.  I guess I don’t know many people under age 50 who do watch news on a regular basis anymore.

As far as tv watching goes, I watch mostly youtube anymore.  I did watch a couple superhero movies on my amazon account over the last several days.  I saw the first Iron Man and Man of Steel over the last few weeks.  Saw Black Panther a couple months ago.  Saw Avatar a few weeks ago.

Haven’t talked to my neighbors for a few days.  I am probably going to call them this afternoon and see how they are doing.  One of my neighbors had surgery a month ago and has been more or less house bound since.  His wife occasionally makes dinner for me, usually a couple times a week.  Haven’t been outside the complex for awhile.  Just too cold to be out.  Even though I live within walking distance of a couple restaurants, I don’t eat much fast food anymore.  I haven’t even eaten at McDonald’s in over a year.

I still lift weights three to four times a week.  As I get stronger, I add new exercises and more reps.  While I may not be losing weight, I know I am getting stronger.  I still get winded sometimes but I recover much faster now than a year ago.  I may not leave my apartment every day, but I do make a point of getting up and walking around at least once an hour.  About the only time I have aches and pains anymore is when I wake up or have eaten too much sugar and caffeine.

I guess I’ve fully entered my winter routines.  I don’t mind the cold weather, especially since I no longer have to drive in ice and snow anymore.  And sleeping under fleece blankets feels so good.

Winter, Socializing, and Reading

I’m now in winter mode.  Been reading a couple hours a day most days.  Still lifting weights three times a week.  Ever since I got my new bed I’ve been getting better quality sleep.  I don’t wake up with as many aches and pains.  When I do take pain pills, it is usually only once a day.  I am starting to eat less, I usually cook once a day, have a large lunch, and then have some left overs for dinner.  Mentally I am more stable.  Haven’t had any true problems since right before Christmas.  Been more social this last week too.  Talked with friends over facebook every day for the last seven days.  I feel like I have gotten some much neglected socializing.

We didn’t get much snow with this last cold snap.  But it did feel good to curl up under my fleece blanket and read some on my e-reader.  I’m currently working on a couple classics I read in my early twenties.  Currently working on Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Republic by Plato.  Haven’t been doing the audiobooks for several days.

For awhile I was worried about the fact I haven’t been as diligent about reading books for the last two years.  I still read a great deal, even if it was online articles, short stories, and audiobooks.  But for the last several days I’ve been reading like I never left off.  I’m still adapting to reading on an e-reader I guess.  It still doesn’t feel the same as reading a traditional book, especially an older book with the old library aroma.  I enjoy that smell, it reminds me of the old library in my childhood hometown that was my second home as a child.  While I haven’t been to a traditional library for a few years, I still love to read.  I’m now working on my e-reader.  I downloaded a few hundred free classics through the Apple online store.  I would have spent years and a small fortune tracking these books down in the years before the internet.  Sure there are many I’ll probably never get to read, but it still feels good to have them.  Thanks to my e-reader I have read some books I probably never would have.  It’s amazing what a person can find anymore.

Return to Routine After Holidays

Today was the first really routine day since a couple days before Christmas.  Even though I played Christmas music on youtube and watched a couple Christmas movies since the day after Thanksgiving, it didn’t truly hit that it was Christmas until a week before Christmas.  I had some flare ups a couple days before Christmas Eve, so I had to reschedule my plans.  I did talk to my brother and his family on Christmas Day as well as my parents and a few friends.  I had my Christmas celebration on New Year’s Day when my parents came to town.  I got a few shirts, a few pairs of sweat pants, a fleece coat, and a heavy duty bed frame.  The frame is all metal and a lot firmer than my previous frames.  Yet it seems to sleep better.  I went to bed at 11pm last night and woke up at sunrise and I didn’t have much for pain.  I still fit a little stiff, but that’s been normal for the last several months.  I didn’t even take pain meds this morning.  I do take some gloucosimine every morning with breakfast as I sometimes have sore joints in the morning.  That and a short soak in a hot bath every day seems to work wonders on my joints.

I hosted my parents yesterday, watched some New Year’s college football, and bought some groceries.  My cleaning lady arrived this afternoon.  Talked to a couple friends this evening.  A college friend of mine and his brothers went skiing on New Year’s Day in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I never did any skiing or snow boarding, not even as a kid.  I was always into warmer weather activities like fishing, playing football, and running track and field.  My favorite winter activities involve drinking coffee, lifting weights, and reading.

Found my old e-reader two weeks ago.  I’m rereading a couple of the classics I read in my younger years.  I’m currently working on Plato’s “Republic” and Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.”  Last summer I reread “Art of War” by Sun Tzu.  I also listened to a few audiobooks on youtube over the autumn, mostly science and tech books.  Read the first of the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov last summer.  While it didn’t seem like I got as much reading done as I would have liked, I guess I did a bit once the whole year was taken into consideration.

November 10 2019

Today is November 10, 2019.  This is the first day in my experiment of living without social media.  I shut down my twitter account and I went inactive on my facebook.  I had plenty of acquaintances but only a handful of people I interacted with on a regular basis.  I am getting back into writing emails again.  I wrote to my best friend and she wrote back a few hours later.  So far I’m not going through withdrawal, at least not yet.  Now that I starting to adjust to not needing to check on my friends several times a day, I found I actually got some more things done today.  I started journaling again.  I had bought a few notebooks several months ago with the idea that I would write in those.  But I found that it’s actually easier now to type things out rather than write them out long handed.  I don’t write long hand much anymore.  But I can write decently on a computer keyboard.  I’m going to do more writing on my computer now.

Renewed my Netflix subscription a few days ago.  Saw a couple science fiction movies I had been meaning to see but never got around to.  Saw Cloud Atlas this morning.  Saw Thor Ragnaork a couple days ago.  Thinking about binge watching a few of my favorite series again.  I’m thinking of starting with either The Borgias or Hell on Wheels.  I may also pick back up on Star Trek Next Generation.

Finished an audiobook on YouTube a couple days ago.  It was another book about automation and the future of working within the next twenty years.  If what many of these authors and scientists write is true, millions of people could be out of work within the next ten to twenty years.  This could be quite devastating to many people, especially people in mid career who suddenly find their skills obsolete.

And the kicker is that while scientists and tech bosses are talking about this, as is the press, almost no politician is even discussing this. I swear our political system isn’t designed to keep up with the current speed of tech and social change.  Neither are our financial, legal, educational, or religious systems.  As unrecognizable as the world of 2019 would be to someone visiting in 1999, I am convinced the changes between now and the next twenty years will be even more disruptive.  We can deny it or legislate it away as much as want, but it won’t do any good.  It will make the transitions only tougher.  And I fear our current crop of leaders in government, education, commerce, religion, etc. are woefully under preparing for what is staring us in the face.  I’ve feared this for years.

Science and tech seem to be among the few things that are actually adapting to the new ways of living and doing things.  I mean, we have tech magnates making plans to go to Mars, build colonies on the Moon, provide broadband internet to every person on Earth, and even people audacious enough to try to figure out how to reverse aging.  Yet we have politicians who try to revive dead industries, try to divide peoples, and seek to start wars.  I try not to pay attention to politicians anymore.  They are, as far as I’m concerned, merely a distraction and a circus side show.  The real drivers of progress are science, technology, medicine, and art.  And it may be that increased international trade is what will prevent a major world war, if it is to be prevented.  I mean, what’s the point of going to war against trade and business partners?  The citizens, by and large, want peace.  It’s our short sighted and arrogant leaders who want war and division and hate.  Keep them divided and fighting among themselves I guess.