Easing Into Fall and Breaking Out of a Depression

Been rainy and cool the last few days.  Haven’t really gone anywhere over the Labor Day weekend.  Pretty much slept in, listened to podcasts, and talked to family a little.  I think my bouts of irritability and paranoia have passed.  Was having some problems with those for a couple weeks.  I find that sleeping more and avoiding rude people helps me.  So does eating healthier.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost but I am down one full shirt size since the middle of June.  And I’m not doing much besides eating more protein, severely limiting carbs and sugars, and lifting weights three times per week.

Overall I think I’m coming out of my traditional late summer depression.  It helps that the weather is cooler.  I always enjoyed cooler weather.  From this point of the year until early April I really don’t feel much pressure to socialize if I don’t want to.  Sometimes in summers past my friends and family would want to do things like go camping, go to baseball games, go fishing, or go to the park.  Sometimes I wouldn’t want to go but I’d force myself to in an attempt to break out of the depression I was in.  More often than not I did break out of it, at least for the rest of that day.  I would be glad I went out with them afterward but I would, unfortunately, be a little resentful when first asked out.  But I did make some good memories in the process even when all I wanted to do was stay home and brood.

I’m enjoying the cooler weather and the rain.  Sometimes during these rainy days, I’ll bring up some jazz music on youtube and just relax.  I like to read to jazz and blues music.  Listened to a lot of Miles Davis, Muddy Watters, and John Lee Hooker over the years while reading.  Cooler and overcast weather puts me in the mood to think, read, and write.  I do enjoy this kind of weather.

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My Education as a Writer with Mental Illness

 

I readily admit to being eccentric.  I was such even as a child.  In my more active years, I used to pace in the back yard for hours on end regardless of the weather just making up stories in my head.  I’m sure this concerned my family some (and made me a butt of jokes among the school yard bullies), but I had an overactive imagination as a child.  I was too scared to actually put any of this into writing.  I guess I was paranoid even as a child.  I used to make up all sorts of stories and characters.  I kind of kick myself now for not making notes on some of those stories as I think some of them might have made decent science fiction or fantasy stories.  But I never considered a career as a writer because I had heard so many horror stories about English and humanities students condemned to working minimum wage jobs after college.  As it is now, the middle class is all but gone.  I may have been happier as a double major in English and History rather than trying to be a medical scientist.

I guess now that I know myself much better at age 38 than I did at age 18, I know now that I am really a writer/story teller who is interested in science, rather than a scientist interested in writing.  And I certainly am not the economist or sales man I studied to be when I studied business after it became clear my mental illness wouldn’t allow to go to medical school.

Since I’m starting to read much more again, I’m beginning to get the urge to try my hand at traditional writing again.  I absolutely love blogging and I used poetry in my twenties to learn how to write and tell stories.  But perhaps it is time to venture into new possibilities with my writings.  I’ve had some of my poems published in small literary journals in the past. I did write the rough drafts of two novels when I was in my twenties.  I made outlines for science fiction novels but never wrote anything serious.  Once I even tried my hand at writing crime drama, and my only experience with crime was when I helped my boss catch a couple shoplifters during my first day on the job when I was in college.  I wish I had kept my rough drafts of my old novels.

I became interested in writing as a means of story telling during my freshman year in college when I qualified for a place in an advanced English course.  I find out I loved writing stories and essays in that class.  I made some pretty good friends in that class too.  One of those friends became a blogger too.  I regret that I lost contact with her and everyone else in that class over the years.  Even though I didn’t dive head first into writing after that class ended, I did become interested in literature.  I must have spent as much time reading in the college library as I did studying for my business and economics classes during the last three years of college.  I became so dedicated to pursuing this course of self study that I let much of my old college life go.  I left my fraternity even though I had lots of friends in that group.  I stopped dating to pursue knowledge.  I guess I knew even early on that learning and story telling were the true loves of my life.  Besides, fighting a mental illness I would have probably made a lousy husband and father.

I more or less lived in the library the last three years of college.  But one of the purposes of formal education should be to at least give kids the tools to learn new things should they wish to once they leave school.  I felt my formal education, first at a rural public school and then at a private college in York, Nebraska, did just that for me.  And I am grateful every day that I wake up for being able to make it through college without any student debt.  With as expensive as college is getting now, and how wages simply aren’t keeping up, I whole heartedly recommend against going to a four year college unless you are going for a STEM degree or can be guaranteed to get out debt free.  I’ve seen too many friends crushed by student loan debts, robbed of their peace of mind, and working jobs they can’t stand just because of said debts.  And much of what I learned in college can just as easily be learned with a few years of hard self study via the public library system, ebooks, and youtube videos.  I dare say that I learned more in five years of hard self studying via the public library and youtube videos than I did in my formal education.  But it was the formal education that planted that desire and need for knowledge and wisdom to begin with.  These are some of my thoughts on my education and path to enlightenment as the school year starts again.

Reading, Beginning of School Year, Music, and Arguing With Myself

Still reading quite a bit.  I started a couple audiobooks in addition to the hardback I’m currently working on.  For some odd reason I prefer to be reading on at least three books at a time.  I sometimes lose interest in one after awhile and concentrate on the other two for a few days.  Then I’ll go back to the one I put on the back burner.  I spend a good deal of my time anymore either reading or working on my computer.  Haven’t watched much for tv or sports for a couple weeks.  As football will be starting again in a couple weeks, I imagine I’ll be spending some of my Saturday afternoons watching college football again.

It’s starting to feel close to fall again.  School started in my town and the college kids will be moving back in this weekend.  Even though I’m in my late 30s and haven’t been in a college classroom since 2005, I always enjoy when the college students come back.  College was some of the happiest times for me during the course of my “formal” education.  The weather has been cooler than typical August the last few days and it gets cool enough at nights that I have to pull up the blankets while I sleep.  I even wore long sleeves for the first time since early April two nights ago.

Been having occasional flare ups of irritability the last several days.  I’ve been going to bed earlier than usual to try to counteract this.  I’m also avoiding negative and rude people as much as possible too.  So I haven’t been socializing as much as I would like.  Such is the price of preventative maintenance.

Been listening to more music lately.  I don’t have any physical CDs or tapes anymore as I look all my music up online via youtube and pandora.  Why pay for tunes when you don’t need to?  My favorite genres of music are hard rock and jazz.  Strange combination I know.  I listened to a lot of country when I was in college but also mixed in heavy metal when I was reading or studying.  There really isn’t much I won’t listen to.  I do prefer the hip hop of the nineties to much of what is popular in that genre now.  I developed a taste for some of the newer techno and dance music in the last few years.  So I guess I haven’t completely shut myself off the newer music.  When I was a kid I used to get annoyed with adults who complained about the music and clothing styles of the “damn kids.”  I promised myself even before I went to high school that I would never become one of those types when I grew up.  Even today I lose my patience with people my own age complaining about younger people.  Makes me wonder why some people even have kids if they’re just going to complain and moan about them all the time.

Other than the occasional flare ups that are gone after a few minutes of inner dialog with the ‘voices’, I feel quite well overall. I’m glad I have gotten this far into summer without any true problems.  Hope things continue to go well.

A Schizophrenic Country Boy’s Journey to Enlightenment

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Starting to read more traditional books again.  For a couple years I had been lazy, by my standards, about reading.  For most of my life I always had a book I was reading on or re-reading.  I had gotten out of that habit for a little over two years as most of my reading was being done online.  I did listen to a few sci-fi audiobooks on youtube.  My favorites were Foundation by Issac Asimov and a few of Cory Doctrow’s short stories.

But I have recently rediscovered how much I love laying in bed with a book under my nose.  When I was in college, my friends thought I was odd in that I would do most of my homework in bed.  In addition to my homework, I was also reading some of the classics of Western literature from the college library.  Levitt Library was such a second home for me during my college years that I took a job as a tutor there my senior year.  I didn’t really need the money as I lived at home during the summers while working 40 to 50 hours a week and saving my summer money for the school year.

During my ‘self directed study’ program, I sampled philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, read epic poetry by the ancient masters like Homer and Virgil, read lots of history, sampled some of the philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, read some of the major works of Shakespeare, as well as much of the classic poetry of Europe and 19th and early 20th century America.  The works of Emerson and Nietchze resonated with me.  I still have some of their works on my book shelf.  My favorite classical novelist is probably Alexandre Dumas, I especially loved ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’  One summer I read ‘War and Peace’, and it took the entire summer to read it.  The summer after I graduated from college, I managed to slog through ‘The Wealth of Nations’, which is essentially the Bible of free market capitalism.

But my tastes have changed over time, when I was in my late twenties I read all the works of Ayn Rand as well as a lot of military history, namely John Keegan, Victor Davis Hanson, and Barbara Tuchman. In my early thirties, I read many economics and business books.  I enjoyed the works of Napoleon Hill, Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar, and Robert Kiyosaki the most. In my mid thirties, I became interested in all things science and future tech.  To that end, I read some of the works of Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, Ronald Bailey, Kevin Kelly, and Peter Diamandis.

After a couple years of letting all this reading ferment, I am ready to dive back into serious reading again.  Even though I have spent a great deal of my life reading those famous books everyone has heard of but never actually read, there are still some books I haven’t gotten to yet that are still on my bucket list.  There are still major philosophers I haven’t gotten into much yet, namely Marx, Kant, Locke, as well as Lao Tzu and Confucious.

Before the prevalence of the internet, some of the entries on my bucket list were to visit the Library of Congress as well as all of the libraries of Harvard University.  But, as it stands now, I can get many of those rare and hard to find works online.  I have hundreds of e-books about philosophy and history that I may never get to read.  But I have them on my computer and iPod.  Kind of mind blowing to think that I have access to the treasure trove of the collected knowledge of civilization available in a manner that would have been impossible even in my childhood and for the price of only one dollar a day in wireless internet connection.  I have access to information that scholars were too often tortured, imprisoned, and killed for seeking in past eras and I don’t even have to leave my living room to acquire it.  I have access to the wisdom of civilization yet I’ll likely never have the money to buy my own house.  Only in the early 21st Century.

Yet, I enjoy living the life of a self  taught scholar.  I made myself into one primarily because school by itself didn’t completely satisfy my love for reading and learning.  Tragically, for some people, their school years stifled their creativity and killed their love of reading and learning.  Even though I make poverty level wages, I can get by with my books and writings.  I can do this because I have zero debts.  I will never go into debt again, not even to learn.  I can learn almost anything online anymore.

If there is any one thing I can take away from my years of self study, it is that the path to enlightenment is a never ending one.  I don’t want to stop learning, ever.  If I make it to my nineties and have to live in a retirement home and not be able to bathe myself, I hope at least I can still read books or online articles.  Maybe, by the time I’m ninety anyone will be able to create entire fantasy worlds on hyper powerful computers and share those with other people via powerful virtual reality.  I would love to be able to recreate some of the worlds I read about in books.  But that is still a long way down the road.  Until then, I can visit such worlds by my reading.

August 7, 2018

Been uneventful for a few days.  I’m no longer staying awake all night and sleeping most of the day.  Most of my waking time anymore is during daylight hours.  Mentally I feel stable.  I am starting to get a few more aches and pains I can’t really explain.  But I have been more active than usual.  I’m reading more books again.  For awhile most of what I was reading was online articles and audio books.  I’m currently reading ‘The Inevitable’ by Kevin Kelly.  It’s a future tech trends book.

I watch more live tv now, mostly baseball and soccer.  I still don’t watch most news as most of it is just bad news meant to catch our attention.  All the news that fit to be print, right?  I don’t have any regular shows I watch besides some Star Trek reruns on Netflix.  I do watch a lot of history shows on youtube.  I recently watched Crash Course’s entire world history series.  I always did get a kick out of John Green.

While I do get out more often, I still don’t stray too far from my neighborhood.  Haven’t really been outside of my hometown for almost six weeks.  But I am just comfortable and content to stay close to home and did most of my business here.

I think I’m losing weight again.  I notice my clothes fit looser and I can walk a little farther than I could even a few weeks ago.  I think my aches and pains are from more physical activity than usual.  I can also lift more weight than usual.  Weight lifting does make a difference even after a month.

College Years and How I Became a Blogger

Blogging has turned into a dream come true for me.  I can write about my problems as a mentally ill man, tell what works for me and what doesn’t, and now I’m even making a few dollars a month at it.  I never expected any money from this blog or really any of my writing work.  I enjoy what money can do as much as anyone, but I really don’t need a large bank account or stock portfolio to stroke my ego.  As long as I can keep the rent current, have food in my pantry, my medications stocked up, and stay out of debt, I am fine with what I make just off disability pension.  It may seem kinda boring and dreary life for some as I really can’t afford to travel much anymore or that I don’t have any family of my own.

I travelled a lot in my younger years and I went to a small college with a larger than usual foreign student body.  Since there were less than 600 students in our entire college, we were forced to interact with people of many different backgrounds if we wanted to have any kind of social life.  It was a good college for someone like from rural Nebraska who wasn’t personally exposed to many different cultures.  It was in college that I found that I had some talent for writing.  That’s where I started writing poetry and drafts for novels.  I also read many of the classics of American and European literature while there.  I also dabbled in some Eastern philosophy like Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu.  Granted this was in the early 2000s before youtube and most of social media really connnected people.  I imagine I could learn the same things now on my computer as opposed to spending entire days in the campus library.  But being exposed to different ideas from different eras of time and different nations inspired me to tell my own story.  And apparantly my story of my life with mental illness is resonating with some people.

Changing Over To Spring

Spending a quiet, calm, and uneventful weekend at my apartment.  Haven’t talked to anyone this weekend.  After several days of forcing myself out of my comfort zones trying to be more social and out going, I am needing a quiet weekend to recharge and regroup.  Deciding that I’m spending the weekend binging on computer games and youtube music videos.  Been listening to some of the music I listened to in high school and college the last few days.  I refuse to go as far as to say music was better twenty years ago because anyone will be nostalgic for what they grew up listening to in the formative years of their teens and early twenties.  I imagine in early 1800s Germany there were people complaining about Beethoven.  And I’m sure when the 2030s roll around my nephews’ generation will complain about what their kids listen to, watch and read.

As it is, it’s been a calming and relaxing weekend.  It was overcast, kind of chilly, and raining on and off all day yesterday.  We get those days quite a bit in early spring.  I enjoy those type of days.  Boil some coffee, find a good book, and just enjoy the day.  I also do some of my better writing on days like that.  Days like that are one of the reasons spring is my favorite time of year.

Looks like I made it through another winter without having any major setbacks.  I did have to readjust my life some as I got to where I didn’t like being around people and preferred to sleep as much as possible.  Maybe one of the reasons I stayed stable was I avoided people as much as possible.  But with winter ending I suppose I no longer have the excuse of it being too cold or too much snow to leave my complex.  I have to renew my lease in a few weeks.  So I have to get my paper work together for that.  Too bad I couldn’t do this online and submitting e-files.  My rent is literally the only thing I even write checks for anymore.  I imagine this dream of mine is still a few years away.

Returning to Normal Routines

After several days of colder than average weather, it finally warmed up a little today.  At least it warmed enough for me to run some errands.  It feels good to be able to leave my apartment again without worrying about frostbite.  I had spent several days staying at home, watching college football, playing computer games, but doing little of anything else.  I need to get back into some regular routines.  To that end I started lifting weights again today.  I had been lazy about lifting this summer and fall.  I had been quite lazy about exercise ever since I hurt my back.  Sadly I gained back the weight I had lost a few years ago.  I’m starting over in this regard.  I know I can lose the weight again, it’s just a matter of doing so.

Still not sleeping as much as I used to.  Which is alright with me as I used to sleep twelve hours a day during the summer.  Now I’m getting like six hours a sleep every night.  Yet I still feel quite rested.  And I usually try to take an hour nap in the afternoon.  Even with my reduced sleep, I rarely stay up all night now.  Used to be I stayed up all night three nights per week and then sleep in the mornings.  My sleep is returning to more normal patterns.

Been spending a little more time on social media the last few days, mainly to find out about people’s holidays’ plans.  I don’t know if I’ll be back on facebook and twitter more from now on.  It seems to me that many of my friends have just gotten burnt out on all the drama and fighting that has been so prevalent for the last few years.  I wound up unfollowing many people because of the drama, including family members.  So much for making people more connected.  I think the older I get, the less use I have for drama and nonsense and the more uses I have for logic and intelligence.

Now that the weather is starting to break out of the cold spell and the holidays are over, I am at a crossroads.  I realize I now have more freedom than I used to.  During the holidays I avoid the stores because of the crowds and loud Christmas music and too bright displays.  I’m also at a loss now that I won’t have much going on until spring.  January through April has always been a slow but stable time of year for me.  Mentally I am usually my most stable during the winters.  And I usually get a lot of reading and writing done during the colder parts of year.  I admit I love to read for my own enlightenment more than I do my entertainment.  I consider learning entertainment.  I know I am weird in that regard.  But learning new things gives me joy, I don’t care if being an intellectual makes me a social outcast.

Since the holidays are now over, I can get back to some resemblance of normal routines. I plan on doing many audiobooks on youtube this winter.  I’m thinking about using my Khan Academy account to learn some subjects I wish I had taken when in school.  And I plan on doing more outside my apartment so I can have more material to write about.  Overall I plan on making 2018 an excellent year.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

Dealing With Stupid People While Having A Mental Illness

I readily admit I get frustrated when the people I am around on a regular basis do and say stupid things and then keep repeating these mistakes over the course of months and years.  I know I shouldn’t be angry with people just because they aren’t smart.  Some people are just dumb and they are never going to become Mensa material no matter what you do for them.  That is probably the hardest fact of life that I have ever had to accept.  I can handle people not having empathy.  I can handle people being greedy.  But for some odd reason I have had a very tough time coming to the acceptance that some people are just dumb, have always been dumb, and are never going to be interested in the intellectual things like science, technology, history, philosophy, literature, etc. that I am.

Being smart has always come easy to me.  I can’t remember ever not knowing how to read because I pretty much taught myself how to read.  I can’t remember ever having to be forced to read because I read so voraciously on my own. I still do. I actually had to be forced to put down my books and go outside with the neighborhood kids against my will.  I suppose my parents were afraid that I would be one of these really smart people who had lousy social skills.  Well, that happened anyway.  Yet I don’t mind having below average social skills.  Most of the stuff average people like to talk about, like politics, sports, the weather, farming, work, celebrities, etc., I find quite boring.  As much as I enjoy baseball, I wouldn’t have much of a stake in the games if I didn’t have a fantasy league team.  As much as I enjoyed the violence of football when I played as a teenager, I wouldn’t watch any games if it didn’t give me anything to talk about with the average person.  I don’t personally follow politics much except if politicians make noise about cutting science programs.  Cutting science programs will hurt nations long term.  Much of what was the computer and information revolutions came about because of the space programs in the 60s and 70s.  I am not really happy with my current crop of politicians who are cutting science funding and just want to pull up the draw bridge and isolate from the rest of the world.  Who would have thought twenty years ago China and India would be leading the world in developing and implementing nonpolluting technology?  When my parents were children, their parents used to tell them “there’s starving kids in China who would love to eat what you complain about.”  I wonder if Chinese and Indian parents tell their kids “keep studying and going to school, there’s dumb people in America.”

I never had a tolerance for ignorance.  And it’s especially tough having a mental illness and living in low income housing when I am not surrounded by many smart people.  I do most of my socializing online anymore because I can at least superficially connect with people who share my interests.  For years I have struggled searching for people with the same intellectual pursuits I have.  My therapists and I have struggled finding ways for me to find social activities for someone with my interests.  I finally came to the painful realization that I am not going to meet many people I can relate to, at least not in traditional senses.  Some of my best friends I interact with mainly online.  The internet is my social life now.  I’m glad I live in an era when it’s available as much as it is.  Had I lived in the dark ages, I probably would have had to join a monastery.  Even then I’d probably be burned at the stake as a heretic.  I am happy that science is really advancing.  And it doesn’t bother me as much as it normally would that many of these advances are now not happening in my own country.  I really don’t care if it’s an American, a Chinese person, an African, etc. who comes up with the next huge breakthrough.  We all share the same planet so we just as well learn to work and think beyond national boundaries.  I hope that the anti intellectualism I see so prevalent in my time and place is merely a passing fad.  And even if it isn’t, there are plenty of places where intelligence is valued and science will progress.  The future is already happening, it’s just not evenly distributed.