August 4, 2018

Even though we still have officially six weeks of summer left, it’s starting to feel like autumn is just around the corner.  I’m seeing back to school sales and getting fliers for said sales in my mail on almost a daily basis.  One of my neighbors has tomato and pepper pants in the back yard of our apartment complex and they are looking almost ready for harvest.  My parents have kept tomato plants as far back as I can remember and we always had fresh tomatoes every August.  A friend of mine from out of state and her husband grow tomatoes and peppers to make fresh salsa.  I should sweet talk them into sending me a jar one of these soon days.  School for my nephews and niece starts in two weeks.  Soon I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons watching college football.  I guess I always preferred the college game to the pros, if for no other reason, Nebraska isn’t big enough to support pro teams.

Mentally I still feel quite stable.  And I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I usually eat two large protein rich meals per day and drink mostly only water and coffee.  I don’t even buy bread anymore as I have cut most grains out of my diet.  I don’t eat much for dairy besides Greek yogurt and occasionally cheddar cheese.  But my diet mostly consists of baked and grilled lean meats and fresh vegetables.  I saw an online article featuring a former pro football player who lost over 100 pounds in a year and all he was doing was eating grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, lots of water, and lifting weights three times a week.  While I don’t count on such excellent results, it doesn’t hurt to aim big.  I feel like I’ve made much progress since Independence Day, exactly one month ago today.

I socialize in person more now.  Most days I leave my apartment at least once daily, if to just check the mail or buy a Diet Coke from the ground floor vending machine.  I usually drive my car three times a week just to keep it loose and ready to go.  Still haven’t made any road trips this summer besides going to my parents’ house a couple times.

I am still mentally stable.  I am usually in bed by midnight and awake by nine a.m. most days.  I avoid drama and pointless arguments as much as possible now.  Overall I feel well.  I haven’t felt this well for such a prolonged time period in a few years.  And I love it.

I’m glad that summer is almost over.  I always enjoyed autumn more than summer.  I look forward to the cooler weather, the turning leaves, the farmers’ markets, fall football,  playoff baseball, and the college kids returning to town.  My town really comes to life during the falls and springs when the college is in session.  I can hardly wait.

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Changes in Personality and Mental Illness Symptoms with Age

Currently going through a prolonged period of stability.  My levels of depression and anxiety have been quite low lately.  When I do have such issues, they don’t last long and aren’t very bad.  I haven’t had a breakdown of any kind in months.  Haven’t been hospitalized for almost five years now.  I was having feelings of depression and paranoia earlier this year but I wasn’t overly concerned about it as I wasn’t having the anger or aggression issues that traditionally went with it.  Sure I would go days without leaving my apartment, but I wasn’t excessively angry or looking for arguments.  So I wasn’t as worried as I should have been.  Not wanting to socialize for long stretches of time isn’t normal for me.  Sure I have had stretches when I wanted to be left alone for several hours or a day at most.  But I was going sometimes entire weeks when I’d leave my apartment only two or three times the entire week.

Naturally some of my neighbors became concerned.  I may have never been Mr. Popular but I made it a point to be polite and thoughtful to everyone I met.  Yet as I wasn’t even socializing, nor did I want to, that wasn’t normal for me.  I have never been one to just bunker down for days.  I had gotten to that point, particularly during the winter.  It wasn’t my traditional problem with mental illness, but it was a different one.

People do tend to change some with age.  I imagine mental illness issues are probably not much different.  Aspects of my personality and habits have altered over the years.  I’m not as hot tempered as I was even five years ago.  I laugh more often now than I did in my twenties.  I enjoy the little things of life more.  Overall, I’m happier now in my late 30s than I was in my late 20s.  And this is despite my physical health not being as good as it was ten years ago or my being more social than I am now.  I think I have gotten happier and more calm with age.  And I quite enjoy it.

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Since the weather has been so hot the last several days, I’ve been running most of my errands at night.  Picked up some new medication that supposed to help with binge eating problems.  I am a binge eater.  I’ll go hours without eating and then gorge all at once when the hunger pains take over.  And that’s probably worse than snacking throughout the day.  Been on this new med for a few days and I think it’s starting to work.  I have eaten much less than normal and I even need less sleep too.

I still stay awake until dawn and usually sleep until noon, at least unless I have doctors’ appointments.  I’ve also been socializing more often.  Made friends with a new neighbor last night.  I went to take my trash out, sat down as she was coming out for a smoke, and the next thing I knew I had talked to her for over an hour.  I guess I didn’t realize how many new people moved into my complex this year alone.  I really haven’t been socializing because, until recently, I was too depressed and paranoid to.  I was happy to spend much of my days attending Youtube University and learning for my own personal vanity.  It’s amazing what one can learn in several months of intense study.  And I was able to pick up the social skills like I always had them.  It also helps that a few of our problem residents have moved out over the last several months.  Until recently I was too wrapped up in my own depression and paranoia to notice.

I socialize more on facebook too with old friends and extended family.  I had pretty much dropped off facebook for a year or so because of all the arguing and fighting during the last election cycle.  Hopefully these bad experiences have cooled many peoples’ passions and made us more tactful as a species.  But I definitely make it a point to avoid politics, child rearing, and money as these can divide friends and family even in good times.  I think I’m not the only one who wants to make social media fun again.

Socializing In Person and Online

Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often.  I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer.  I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month.  I call home at least twice a week.  And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month.  Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off.  And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often.  I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends.  But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now.  But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with.  I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.

Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.  I readily admit I don’t have great social skills.  I never really have.  But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it.  Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going.  I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had.  Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields.  I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions.  I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community.  I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog.  I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild.  It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away.  A sense of community is important for people.  We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history.  Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.

Entering The Long Haul of Summer and Avoiding People

Another Independence Day has come and gone.  We are now into the middle of summer. From now until usually mid September has traditionally been a tough time of year for me.  I have usually been moodier and more short tempered during the heat of summer.  I am usually good for one psychotic break down during the summer, usually in August or September.  I have had breakdowns in October before too.  But the two times I went to a mental health hospital were both in September.  So as far as the calendar goes, I am beginning to trek into traditionally troublesome times.

I have been avoiding people, at least in person, for the last few days.  I have been doing so well for so long that I don’t really want anything upsetting this winning streak I’m on.  I don’t sleep as much as I used to, but I usually stay up all night until sunrise and sleep until noon most days anymore.  That way I still get some sunlight during the day and get to enjoy the quite and solitude of night as well.  Been spending most of my days reading articles online, watching science videos on youtube, talking to friends and family on the phone, and messing with computers.  I don’t have much of for a social life, but that is by design.  I can’t stand most small talk.  I find talking about the weather, politics, and other people draining, boring, and even physically painful.  I can’t stand talking about mundane and stupid crap I can do nothing about.  Makes me glad I’m an introvert who learned how to keep himself occupied a long time ago.

Looks like I’ll keep this routine up for the next several weeks.  I don’t want to go anywhere and I don’t want to interact with anyone, especially if all they do is complain and moan yet not do anything about their problems.  I’m through listening to petty complaints.  I have enough issues of my own.

Changes Over One Lifetime

I’m going off subject for this post.  Today, June 28 2018 would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  She died of a stroke in 2015 at the age of 97.  Fortunately for our family, she was very sharp mentally right up until her stroke.  She would often talk about the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime.  Grandma Foster could just as easily recall events from her teenage years during the Great Depression as she could events that happened within the last week.  In some ways, she was like having a local historian in our family.

Today I would like to talk about some of the changes that occurred since my grandmother’s birth that early summer day in 1918.  One hundred years isn’t really a long time in terms of our recorded civilizations, let alone on the time frame of the cosmos.  But we have seen many changes.  And I would like to mention some of these.

In 1918, when my Grandma Foster was born, World War I was still going on.  The Spanish Flu Pandemic was at it’s hight.  The old Ottoman Empire was still in existence.  The Russian Revolution was going on.  China was still a very poor country.  India was still a possession of the British Empire.  Much of Africa was divided into European colonies.  Automobiles had been available to the working and middle classes for only a handful of years.  Industrial magnates like John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, etc. were still alive.  It was mostly urban areas in America and Europe that had electricity.  Coal and steam powered almost all industrial processes.

Technologies that my Grandma Foster saw rise during her lifetime included regular radio broadcasts, anti biotic medications, hybrid crops, nitrogen based chemical fertilizers, radar, reliable rockets, nuclear weapons and energy, jet propulsion, reliable airline travel, television, computers, more fuel efficient automobiles, plastics, reliable contraceptive pills, super highway systems, easily available credit cards, lasers, the beginnings of space exploration, organ transplants, test tube children, cellular phones, active searches for alien intelligences beyond our solar system,  high speed railways (granted not so much in America as in Europe and East Asia), the internet, near free information via wikipedia, near free self broadcasting via youtube and podcasting, social media, the beginnings of inexpensive renewable power, the rise of automated drone technology, the rise of robotics, the human genome project, the beginnings of affordable electric automobiles, the discovery of anti matter, and the early research into fusion power, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Cultural changes my Grandma Foster saw witness to involved women’s suffrage, the beginning and end of Prohibition, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, World War II, the decline of children in the work force, the increase of women in the work force, the assassination of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of rock and roll music, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the turmoil of the 1960s, the rise of cable and satellite television, the first people on the moon, the fears of nuclear war and it’s after effects, the popularization of hip hop music and urban culture, the launch of space probes to almost all of our solar system, the Hubble Telescope, the popularization of science fiction and futurism, the rise of awareness of industrial pollution and the beginnings of the efforts to undo the effects thereof, the AIDS epidemic, the end of colonialization, the rise of China as an industrial and scientific power, the rise of the United Nations and globalization, the beginnings of the decline of nationalist furvor that was the norm for most of civilization, the rise of the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the War on Terrorism, the first black man to be U.S. president, the first women Supreme Court justices, the beginnings of the declines in the marganializations of religious, sexual, cultural, etc. minorities, the beginnings of plans to colonize space, the realizations of the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence, and the rise of better treatment for the disabled, mentally ill, and pretty much anyone who didn’t conform to the average norm.

All of this I mentioned was just in the lifetime of someone I was blood relation to.  As you could see, the rate of changes only accelerated as time went forward.  I’m sure there are changes I forgot to mention.  My grandmother was old enough to remember people who were Civil War veterans and probably met people who were born into slavery or at least their children.  I write all of this to state that yes, the world changes over time.  People change over time, and not just because older generations die off and younger ones take their places.  I think of some of the changes I’ve seen just in my 38 years living as a human.  I really don’t recognize much of what I saw in the mid 1980s now and some of the attitudes and practices of even my childhood has me wondering “what were we thinking” and even “what was I thinking.”  Change is constant.  Change is inevitable even if not predictable or even in coming.  Or as one science fiction writer put “The future is already here.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.”

Taking Care of Physical Health With Mental Illness

Had a couple doctor appointments the last several days.  I’ve decided I need more help getting back on top of my physical health.  So I now have a regular general practice doctor at a clinic only a few blocks from my home.  For the last few years I had been going to doctors only for emergencies.  But now that I’m not as young as I once was, I imagine I’ll have to make regular appointments more often.  I just don’t bounce back physically as fast now as I did even five years ago.  One of the changes we made was to the blood pressure medication.  As blood pressure issues run in my family, I always knew it was only a matter of time before I started having problems.  I get that new regiment started today and check back in two weeks to see exactly where I stand.

Mentally I feel stable even though some times all I want to do is sleep.  And when I don’t want to sleep, I usually want to stay home.  Since I’ve been home the last few days, I’ve been watching some of the World Cup games.  I readily admit to knowing little about soccer, but I can see how much of the world can like it.  And I constantly have to remind myself that in soccer, there are no television timeouts like in baseball or basketball.  More than once I have been in the restroom or getting something to eat in my kitchen only to miss a goal.  One of our family friends is an immigrant from Mexico and they are doing quite well in the early going.  I was happy to hear that the USA, Canada, and Mexico will be hosting the World Cup in 2026.  I would love to get back in good enough health to attend one of those games or at least one of the festivals in a host city.  Hopefully a city near me, like Kansas City or Denver gets to host a game or two.  I got to see a World Series baseball game in person in 2007.  That was one of the highlights of my mid 20s.  I’m so glad one of my college buddies was able to score a couple tickets.

Other than watching the World Cup tournament and getting back on top of my health, I really haven’t been up to much else.  But with Independence Day coming in a little over a week, I’m sure I’ll be seeing (and hearing) fireworks any day now.

Living With Very Few Regrets While Mentally Ill

 

I have my birthday coming up in a few days.  My birthday doesn’t mean as much to me anymore as it did when I was in my youth and early adulthood.  I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m not going to get younger or stronger as I age.  I accept that things on my body are going to start wearing out.  I’ve even accepted that I may become forgetful and not have as rapid mental recall as I did in my younger years.  But this mental illness has become easier to manage than it was even five years ago.  Even my current problems aren’t overbearing like they were years ago.  Now they are irritable occurences that I just deal with until they pass by.  I really think my mental illness is easier to deal with now in my late 30s than it was when I was in the prime of my health.

I don’t worry about getting older.  I actually welcome it.  I’m not really that nostalgic about the past and I really don’t have that many regrets about my past.  I avoided all the major mistakes and learned from the minor ones.  I’m not tied down as much as many people I know.  I know people from my classes in high school and college who have gone through divorces, stuck in dead end jobs, paying off massive debts, in unhappy marriages, have addiction problems, and generally not having a very good time in their thirties.  My only true problem is I can stand to lose about 100 pounds.  I’ve already lost at least 25 pounds since New Year’s.  All I really did was give up fast food, give up most sugar, give up most bread, and drink only water and coffee.  Even my chronic back pain is gone.  I do occasionally allow myself thin crust pizza, but I go heavy on vegetable toppings when I do.

As cool as my college years were, in spite of the schizophrenia, in some ways my late 30s are even more amazing.  I stay in contact with my college friends via facebook and instagram.  I have all the music I spent a small fortune on in my teens and twenties for free on youtube and spotify.  And I even listen to some of the newer material that comes out too, not just what I grew up with.  When I was a teenager I promised myself that regardless of how my life or career turned out, I would never allow myself to become a bitter old man.  That’s why I don’t complain about the “lousy kids” or pine for the “good old days.”  I do have a few regrets, but the big one (not having much of a relationship with my brother), even that can be reversed once he and I start to put the effort into it.  We may not talk much, but that isn’t because we hate each other.  We just have totally different lives and day to day experiences.

I may not have dated many women, but I did have some roller coaster ride romances I don’t regret.  I asked out all the women I had crushes on in my life, got turned down by most of them, but I’m not wondering ‘what if’ about the one I let get away.  Just because I asked was a victory in some regards.  I’m glad for the dates I had, even the really lousy ones.  I don’t regret being stood up by women, or being rejected, or watching one woman I liked date one of my close friends.  And I don’t regret being unmarried at this point in my life.  I definately don’t regret not paying alimony or child support.  If, at some point down the road, I do meet my forever instead of my usual until whenever types, I’ll consider it an added bonus.  But I am not worried about being an old man and alone. By the time I get to be an old man, I may have a robotic assistant that does everything that a professional care giver would anyway.  I’ve lived 38 years at this point and experienced some cool things.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Thoughts on Friendships, Working, and the Past

Been more stable than usual for the last couple weeks.  Besides the fact I usually stay up all night, go to bed at sunrise, sleep until early afternoon, and then wake up for good, I don’t have much unusual going on right now.  Perhaps one of the reasons I have stabilized lately is that I have a routine that works for me.  I usually don’t alter it unless necessary.  I had to be up early a few days ago so maintenance could do some work in my place.  Spent a few hours out of my place and socializing with fellow tenants like old times.  Even though I haven’t socialized much over the last several months, I picked up like I never left off.  I was lucky in that I ran into a few of the more interesting tenants and we were able to do more than talk about the weather or complain about other people.  Mundane chit chat really drains me real fast.  That’s why I don’t do well at large social gatherings or Christmas parties.

Been reestablishing a couple of the friendships I had lost contact with over the last few years.  There are more I’d like to get back going.  One of my best friends from childhood I’d love to get back in contact with but I haven’t seen him in almost twelve years.  It’s a sad deal because we were almost like family to each other in junior high and high school.  Very interesting man.  But we just lost contact over the years.  I lost contact with most of my old high school friends besides one or two of them.  In 2019, my twenty year reunion is coming.  I’m probably not going as most of the friends I had as a teenager aren’t the type that go to reunions.  And part of me is afraid to go back after fighting mental illness for my entire adult life and falling apart the way that I have.  One of the reasons I’m not very nostalgic about my youth, or the past in general, is that high school, at least for me, was the toughest four years of my life.  I can’t imagine how tough they would have been had I not had the interesting and stimulating friends that I did.

I had some great times in college.  It was far more fun and stimulating than I experienced anywhere before or since.  It was one of those experiences that, as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t realize how rare it would be compared to the rest of my life.  I think I’m starting to understand why most people don’t like their jobs and think adulthood sucks.  I might be in the same camp had I not had a mental illness destroy any shot I ever had at a decent career.  I never could adapt to office politics or the thought that mediocrity in the workplace and life in general was acceptable.  I certainly couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that being good at a job meant that I was a threat to my coworkers and bosses. Workplaces really are like living Dilbert cartoons.  I don’t know what it’s like in other nations, but Dilbert and The Peter Principle aptly describe my experiences in the American workplace.

Even though I’m fighting a mental illness and don’t have much money, I’m pretty happy overall for the most part.  Not having a career made me realize that we really don’t need a lot of money if just having a happy existence is your main goal.  For years I have heard people say things like “you never hear a dying man say he wishes he worked more or had more possessions”.  And then these same people would work themselves into poor health, excessive stress, and destroy their personal relationships and families pursuing possessions and excessive working.  I think this is stupid.  Learn from the mistakes of the dying generations already.  Stop parroting their thoughts and then doing the exact opposite.  I guess I had to lose a career and my prestige to find my sanity and peace.

Rant on “Quit Whining and Man Up” and observations about socializing

Been kind of depressed and irritable for the last several days.  Haven’t been sleeping well either.  About the only thing going really well for me is my renewed diet.  I am eating less than I normally do and getting more activity.  I get my activity in the afternoons even though I’m in the habit of sleeping until noon again.

I also no longer want to socialize.  And this time I don’t feel guilty for it.  I am tired of people who are in foul and angry moods trying to drag me down into their own mindlessness and petty vendettas.  Unfortunately, anymore, if it weren’t for negativity and fighting, there would be few conversations and certainly no social media.  I hate how I just can’t have a civilized conversation with even people I partly agree with anymore.  And good luck trying to talk to anyone who doesn’t view the world the same way you do.  I’m beginning to think that many people have mental health problems just because of the way we treat each other and the stress of modern living.  Granted, a person doesn’t have to be chronic like those of us on disability to have problems.  I have had a mental illness for almost twenty years now.  And only recently are people starting to talk about the effects of stress, anxiety, and chronic mental illnesses.  For the first several years of my diagnosis I didn’t talk about my mental health to anybody.  And I think I lost several good friendships because my friends didn’t understand that my depression and anger were nothing personal, they were manifestations of the sickness.

For the first several years of my illness I just didn’t talk about it, not even to friends or employers.  Back in those days mental illness was shrouded in more mystery and ridicule than even now.  I have no idea how many times I was told to ‘suck it up’ or ‘man up’ in those early years.  ‘Man up’. Now there is a stupid phrase I can’t figure out.  What does it even mean?  Is there really only one type of manliness?  And why is it the only type of virtues in a man we appreciate are those that involve the John Wayne frontier mentality that violence is the only way to solve all problems?  I think this is stupid, very stupid.  A mentality like that will make our species extinct.  And quite honestly, I enjoy living too much to sit idle while this type of barbarian behavior is honored and encouraged.  I would rather not go back to the Stone Age.  I hated all the ‘Mad Max’ movies and I definately don’t want to experience them in real life.

Another thing, we don’t females to ‘woman up’ and we don’t tell senior citizens to ‘young down’ nor do we tell terminally ill people to ‘hurry up and die.’  It’s little things that normal people just take for granted that I don’t understand and that I often see the dumbness and hypocracy in.  But most people seem pretty cool with dumb things and hypocracy anyway, at least when it comes from sources they like.  Unfortunately I never understood this line of thinking.  It’s probably why I have problems socializing with the public at large.  And of course having a chronic mental illness that people are still ignorant about doesn’t help either.

In closing, as a thought experiment, I was wondering what would happen if someone (or a group of individuals) just went about their daily lives being as rude and condescending to physical people as we are to people in our online interactions.  I would love to see some psychiatrist conduct this experiment.  I think the results would be either very interesting or very disturbing.