Hope After A Mental Breakdown

Had a bad breakdown a few days ago.  I am quite sure, after twenty years with a mental illness, there is a seasonal aspect to my illness.  I regret having breakdowns and I especially regret taking my breakdowns out on people I love.  I had felt it coming on for awhile and then it finally broke a few days ago.  I hope this is the last one for a long time.  I hate the fact that I can’t just sob and cry my way out of a breakdown rather than lash out and be angry.  I don’t know how much of that is just my personal illness, or always being told a man showing emotions is a sign of weakness, etc. But it’s part of the illness and part of the price of admission into adulthood.

In spite of the illness, and the contradictions and nonsense I am fed on a daily basis by society and popular culture, I do my best to not let this crush my spirit or kill my love for my fellow humans.  I know I am often harsh and short tempered with my fellow humans, and my countrymen in particular.  But, contrary to popular belief, I do not hate humans or my countrymen.  It’s the polar opposite actually.  I love humanity and I love my country and my countrymen.  I see the cool things we have accomplished in the past and are accomplishing on a daily basis.  I see the potential for greatness every day.  And yes, it does bother me when I see people not living up to that potential greatness.  I am tough on people, not because I hate them, but because I believe everyone can excel at least one thing and I can’t stand to see a person waste their potential and time.  I am often tough on my family members because I know they are capable of excellence and have often shown it, especially in times of crisis.  I’m sorry but I don’t have much respect for mediocre work and apathy.

A significant portion of the time when I’m reading science journals online or articles on sites like Bloomberg, CNN, Wall Street Journal, etc. I have to remind myself that this isn’t the science fiction it was when I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.  I saw the movie Fight Club the other night, and even though the movie was popular when I was in college, I was amazed how people still used land based phone lines, phone booths, primitive looking desktop computers, and even how many people smoked in a movie that came out in the late 1990s.  I personally haven’t had a land phone line since 2007 or 2008 I think.  I haven’t had a desktop computer in 10 years.  And even this year, I was able to email my bank statements and tax information and social security information to my landlady to renew my lease.  All I had to do in person was sign a few documents and pass an annual room inspection.  And since I now have a cleaning lady who drops in once a week, spruces the place up, and allows me to chat with her while she works, the whole process took about a half hour of my time.

I sometimes overlook the progress my fellow humans, myself, and civilization in general has made when I’m bogged down in the day to day struggle.  But when I take a step back and look at it over the course of a few years, it’s quite amazing and gives me hope.  I get even more hope and feel in awe when I look back at over what has happened in the life time of our current crop of world leaders and elders in my life.  I know I am often too harsh on my elders.  I know I need to cut them more slack when I look back and think about all the changes they saw since their childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.  My father can remember his family being one of the first in his hometown to own a black and white television.  And his uncles used to come out to my grandfather’s farm just to watch the test patterns in the evenings.  Both my parents were typing their high school and even college term papers on electric typewriters.  My mother keeps and old style manual typewriter as a decoration in her house and my eight year old nephew is aghast that people used to write on those things.

I also have to remember that, for some of the elders, old Jim Crow laws and criminalization of things like homosexuality, inter racial marriages, and sex outside of marriage were the law of the land in many places until as recently as the 1970s.  Sure, it feels like some people are backsliding at times.  But the forces at work against such backsliding are far more overwhelming than they would have been even forty years ago.

I can’t even begin to imagine what I will see if I make it to age seventy, if I’m privileged enough to make it that far.  That will be in the year 2050.  I’ve seen some scientists predict everything from bases on the moon and Mars, driverless cars being almost everywhere, nuclear fusion based electricity, to where we no longer use oil and gasoline for transport, to even people augmented their physical strength and mental powers through computer based implants and prosthetic and Iron Man type suits.  I guess I don’t know if I want someone rooting around in my skull planting in chips or injecting me full of blood cell sized machines (at least not right now), but I definitely wouldn’t mind something I could wear that would make me smarter or stronger that I could turn off or take off at a moment’s notice.

Even as much as I love science and tech, I am still adjusting to what is happening and what can be.  And only the best minds in science fiction would have even imagined such things that we are working on now when my father was a kid and reading Dick Tracy comic books in the 1950s.  I know eventually I will be the old man that has trouble keeping up.  I imagine even now my nephews would think it odd I don’t know how to run a 3D printer or a VR headset machine.  My twelve year old nephew set up a flight simulator game on VR for my father (a licensed pilot and former Air Force man) recently that my father occasionally uses.

I don’t know what the future holds, certainly not in terms of working.  The only advice I give to my nephews and niece is ‘stay flexible.’  No one knows.  Maybe people like Mark Cuban will be proven right and that the humanities and arts degrees we have called ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’ degrees for a couple generations will be in as much demand in ten years as STEM and medical degrees are now.  Even though I majored in business in college, I am grateful I took some time to read a lot of philosophy and classical literature when I was young and had more energy.  And I was able to do it for free via my college’s library.  Levitt Library on the York College campus was a second home for me when I was college.  If I wasn’t at my dorm room studying, I could easily be found in the library or with a few buddies discussing philosophy, football strategies, history, or even medieval military tactics at the all night truck stop over chicken fried steaks and 99 cent unlimited cups of coffee.

In spite of my recent melt down, I am hopeful again.  Zig Ziglar was right when he said that positive attitudes and behavior is like taking baths every day, it requires daily maintenance.  No one gets mad when they are extra dirty some days, they just bathe for a little longer.  And of course, some days are dirtier and tougher than others.

Recovering From Rough Patches

Spent the last couple days out of my hometown while visiting family.  It was pleasant to unplug and unwind while enjoying the company of my parents.  Didn’t get much done on this trip other than unwind and touch base with family.  I was needing at least a couple days of different surroundings.  I visited my family at the acreage.  It was good to be back around nature and less rush.  While I am a self admitted city slicker even though I grew up in a rural area, it was still fun to be outside again for a couple hours at a time without being paranoid of being watched by nosy neighbors.

I sometimes get paranoid around even individual people nearby, especially when I want to be alone.  When I was in college, I used to take my trash to a dumpster on the other side of town because I was afraid that people where going through my trash.  I used to be afraid that neighbors and even family were listening in on my conversations.  But the real paranoia I am working against now is that I fear that I am losing favor with my neighbors and fellow tenants in my complex.  I may not be the greatest tenant in my complex, but I still try hard to be friendly with people and just avoid arguments as much as possible.  Fortunately in my over ten years at my current address, I have had real arguments with only three tenants that I can think of right off hand.  Fortunately those cleared up really quick and the problems were resolved shortly afterwards.

Paranoia is indeed strange.  I know in the reasonable part of my mind that my paranoias aren’t real and that I’m essentially worrying over nothing that can’t be easily resolved.  But, the irrational part of my mind keeps replaying these paranoid thoughts on an endless loop.  Drowning out the paranoid thinking process with positive news that is actually happening helps. Positive thoughts help, especially if they can be shown to be true.   That’s why I spend a lot of time researching science advances and medical news. Yet, even then, occasionally the paranoia gets the better of my reasonable side.  The problems I had over the last few days, fortunately, tend to get more rare and even less intense than even a few years ago.  I was happy that I was able to go through this last round of problems without yelling and acting out.  I’ve notice the breakdowns I do have anymore don’t seem to be as intense.  I hope I have gotten better with letting off a little at a time rather than holding it in for a major meltdown.

I was more depressed and weary than angry and irritated these last few days.  I guess that depression and weariness are becoming stronger than irritation and anger at this stage in my life.  I’m glad that it takes more to anger me than in years past.  I no longer avoid driving because of fears of going into road rage; I avoid driving now partly because I find it kind of boring and I don’t like being on the lookout for people who just aren’t paying as much attention to the road as they should. It doesn’t make me angry, but it does make me think ‘how bad do I really want to go out tonight when I can still contact friends from home.’ I used to love to travel.  But I don’t enjoy the travel as much now.  I enjoy the company of friends and family more now.

I Want To Shake Things Up and Get More Active Again

whybenormal

My back has healed up.  I’m back to essentially a more normal routine.  Because of the colder weather and being housebound for two weeks, I got to do some thinking about changing things in my life.  I have essentially been in a rut for the last couple years where it’s pretty much the same old every day, day in and day out.  I haven’t done any real traveling for almost three years, spending much of my time self educating via youtube and Khan Academy and reading books.  I gained back the weight I lost within two years of my car accident back in 2015.  Now I’m getting more serious about my health again.  I don’t eat fast food anymore.  I’m starting to get out of my apartment more and walk a little every day.  I do arm weights three times a week.  And about the only things I drink anymore are water and coffee.  I feel like I’m beginning to see some results.  I started this new routine shortly after New Year’s.  Because my back slowed me down for two weeks, I just cut back on what I ate.  I’m to where I now eat meat only once a day, usually for breakfast.  The rest of the meals I eat things like spinach leaf salads, soups, peanut butter, and meatless pasta.  I think my routines are starting to work.  I feel like I have more energy.  I feel more mobile.  I’m starting to have fewer aches and pains.  And I am sleeping better too.

I’m also thinking that after I have lost some weight, I’m going to have to get out and about more.  I am in desperate need of shaking up my routines and adding more spice to my life.  A few years ago I said that I would like to do some traveling eventually.  I still have my savings that I built up a few years ago.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to see my old college friends again.  I don’t have a definite time line set just yet as this is still in the dreaming before making plans phase.  I have always wanted to get my passport and travel through Europe and see places like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, London, etc.  Part of me would, if I get back to the same weight I was in college, love to travel on some of the old Silk Road from eastern Europe to China or vice versa.  When I was in high school I spent a couple weeks in Mexico with my Spanish class.  It was the most enjoyable vacation I had in my entire life.  Now that I am an adult, debt free, committed to getting back into good physical health, and have a little bit of a savings, I’m going to have to do this traveling before I get too old to enjoy it.  Since I am single, have a safety net in my disability pension, and I can do my blog from anywhere that has WiFi internet, I’m starting to hear the faint beckoning call of the open road again.

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I did a little traveling every year.  My senior year of college, my parents and I went to San Antonio for Christmas.  I got to see The Riverwalk lit up for Christmas, visited the Alamo, got to see one of the Air Force bases my dad was stationed at during the Vietnam War, and got to see my Nebraska Huskers play a post season bowl game.  And an old college friend and I used to go to Denver to see Colorado Rockies baseball games, one of those games being a World Series game.  Spent all winter paying off the cost of that quick weekend trip, and even though the Rockies lost the Series, it was worth the trip.  I visited an old college friend in Minnesota for a week several summers ago.  I was amazed at how beautiful Minnesota is (I wouldn’t care to fight their winters). My friends and I used to go to minor league baseball games every summer.  We were able to get front row seats, a couple hot dogs, and a couple soda pops for less than $25 a person.  Just thinking about these old times while I was house bound for the last two weeks got me to realize just how much I missed travel and seeing different places.

I know that before I can fulfill these dreams of traveling, I have to lose some weight.  I have done it before.  And by God I can do it again.  I know it’s going to take at least a few years before I can get to doing the travel overseas like I dream of doing.  But I have pretty much gotten to where I have played all the computer games and done most of the self study I care to do.  I took a couple years doing that and I have gotten it out of my system.  Now it is time for a different chapter in my life.  It’s time to lose some weight and prepare to hit the road again.

Recovering From Back Pain

I’ve been limiting my physical activity for the last three days because of my ailing back.  I’m sleeping in a recliner again.  That seems to ease the pain as does taking ibuprofen and warm showers every morning.  Since the weather is turning cold and snowy again, it looks like I’ll be homebound for the next few days even with my back feeling better.  Mentally I’m still stable.  I think keeping in daily contact with friends and family helps me stay stable during these times when I’m not able to do much physically.  I think a few more days of rest and ibuprofen and I should be alright.  I think I’m going to sleep in my chair for the foreseeable future.  I think sleeping on my back isn’t helping my back.  And my back has been messed up on and off since my car accident two years ago.  If this doesn’t clear up within a few days, I’ll have to suck it up and go back to the chiropractor.  That helped the last time my back was messed up.

 

Recovering From A Rough Road

It’s been almost a week since my psych breakdown.  I’ve pretty much put the pieces back together.  I’m going to bed earlier and have given up all caffeine for the last few days.  I do sleep a lot again and I do occasionally get minor headaches.  I hope the headaches are more from stress than caffeine withdrawal.

I do get out of my apartment a little everyday.  I bought groceries and gas over the weekend.  Had been putting that off for too long.  Since the weather has turned cool I have been eating a lot of higher carb things like spaghetti and rice.  I always did better in colder weather than the heat of the summer.  I always did enjoy hunkering under a blanket and reading for hours on end.

I’m still reading many science and tech sites.  Some days I have to remind myself that things like this are being attempted in the here and now all over the world and that it’s not a sci fi tv series.  I saw things like driverless cars, urban farming, and portable computers only in comic books as a kid in the 1980s.  Even our natural disasters, we are able to predict major storms days in advanced and organize rescue and humanitarian aid within hours.  As bad as these recent hurricanes, forest fires, and earthquakes have been, in past eras they could have been much worse.  I don’t know if I’m being overly optimistic, but I have spent much of my early years being a pessimist.  I gave pessimism up once I figured out that most of what I worried about was more manageable then I previously thought.  Anxiety is often worse than the actual problem itself.

Overall I’m feeling pretty decent considering how rough last week turned out.  Even though I leave my apartment everyday, I don’t socialize much in person.  I try to avoid social media as I have found some of my friends and family I enjoy talking to are now avoiding it too.  I have enough going on in my schizophrenia stressed mind to deal with anyone else’s problems.  I have to take care of myself before I can help out anyone.

Random Thoughts on Holidays, Family, and Younger Generations

Been feeling quite stable the last several days.  I still have my flare ups of anxiety and irritability but fortunately they are not as intense as they once were.  I’m beginning to reduce some of the doses of my medications as I tend to do well mentally in the late fall and winter months.  I’m even not as irritable about Christmas this year.  I see people are already putting up their decorations.  I haven’t decorated for holidays in years.  I just don’t see the need to.  I will no doubt continue to avoid the mall and the big box stores during the holidays as I can now do all my shopping online.  Thank God for amazon and the postal service.

I did a little Christmas shopping for myself already in the way of a couple new books and a couple computer games.  I don’t usually go all out for the holidays being on a limited budget.  I don’t buy a lot of gifts for people for Christmas simply because I usually don’t have that much money.  But then again, even Jesus hasn’t gotten Christmas gifts in 2000 years.  Must be rough that everybody but you gets gifts on your designated birthday.  No wonder practitioners of other faiths think Christians are odd 🙂

I have found myself eating less over the last week or so.  I usually eat two meals a day and drink lots of water and caffeine between meals.  Even though caffeine can make me irritable in large doses, it does act as an appetite reducer for me.  It’s not necessarily a bad deal as I haven’t had to buy groceries in three weeks.  I’m eating less, sleeping less than usual (but I don’t feel tired or sluggish), getting outside more often in spite the colder weather, and genuinely feeling better than I did this summer and early fall.

As of right now I don’t have any plans for Thanksgiving.  My cousins already had theirs and my aunts are going to their kids’ places.  It may be just myself this year again.  I opted out of Thanksgiving last year as I wasn’t feeling mentally stable and didn’t want to have problems around my brother’s kids.  I probably should volunteer at one of the community Thanksgiving dinners that groups like the Knights of Columbus or the local food pantry puts on.  One year my entire extended family and I volunteered at a community dinner in my hometown.  Found out there were more shut ins and family less people than I thought.  But if it is just me I just may go to the KFC and buy one of their large family meals the night before and live off that for a day or two.  A friend of mine traditionally has lobster instead of turkey.

Even though I may not be doing anything really special for the holidays I can always call or video conference with family and friends.  Thanks to the internet and social media platforms if you don’t stay in contact with friends and family it’s your own doing.  I’ve been getting back on Facebook more now that the hoopla of the election has finally died down.  Regardless of whether I go to my mother’s place or not I’ll definitely make a point of keeping in touch with my parents.  I talk to my parents usually twice a week even though I’m in my mid thirties.  I talk to them more now than when I was in my late teens and twenties.  I don’t know what it is but they seem more interesting now and less domineering now then when I was in high school.  But I suppose since I don’t live in the same town and have proven I can be on my own for a dozen years it’s like they’re more old and wise friends rather than the authority figures they were when they were when I still lived in their house.

I just hope I never catch myself complaining about the younger generations when I get older.  I’m seeing my friends in my age bracket complaining about teenagers and college students and I’m thinking “Dude, that was us twenty years ago.  We didn’t know anything back then and we still turned out alright.  Ease off.”  If I ever find myself complaining about the “kids” and/or talking about how much better it was in the past, I hope someone comes along and slaps some sense back into me.  I remember what it was like being a kid and listening to the elders complain about me and my cohorts.  And back then I promised myself I would never voluntarily put anyone younger than I am through that.  It sucks not being taken serious because of your youth.  It sucks not being taken serious because of my mental illness.  But that is a topic for another place and time.

Days of Calm and Keeping Busy

My back is essentially healed up by now.  I can walk normal speed again and do my normal errands.  I’m spending more time out of the apartment.  Been to the park a couple times in the last week, chatted with a few neighbors, called a couple old friends, and gotten some sunshine.  This was a far cry from where I was just three weeks ago.  When I first hurt my back I didn’t leave my apartment for three days just from the pain.  Fortunately I managed to keep myself occupied with computer games, reading, youtube videos, phone calls to friends and family, and watching soccer and basketball on tv.

I was following the Copa America tournament over the last several days. Been watching a little of the Euro 2016 tournament too.  I saw all of USA’s games.  I haven’t traditionally made it a point to watch much soccer except when USA is playing.  I may be changing that as  the US put up a decent showing until when they ran into Argentina.  It helps that I have a nine year old nephew and a seven year old niece who are big soccer players.  My brother encourages his four kids to do numerous activities.  He won’t let them play football but I don’t blame him, especially with all the injuries.  I hurt my back in a football game when I was fifteen and I couldn’t sit without pain for months afterward.  Yet I didn’t tell the coaches or even my parents.  I suppose it went with the whole macho mentality that pain is just a part of football.  Plus playing football was the only thing I did in high school that most people considered normal.  The older I get the more I feel guilty about watching football.  It’s essentially people maiming themselves for my amusement.  But I guess it’s not as bad as ancient Romans cheering while lions eat Christians.  It’s just not as entertaining as it was ten to twenty years ago.

I still like baseball though.  Don’t watch it every night like I used to.  Even then I usually had it on in the background while I was doing chores, writing, reading, or doing something on my computer.  I still participate in a fantasy baseball league with some old college friends and friends of friends.  I met most of those guys when I was at Matt’s wedding in the Black Hills last July.  So I finally got to meet some of the guys I’ve only known by their screen names.  It is a competitive league but no money changes hands.  And my Rockies are doing a little better than normal, just slightly below fifty-fifty.

I may have been limited for the last few weeks but I still managed to keep busy.  And now that the back is cleared up I’ll be able to do even more.  Fortunately I haven’t had any flare ups of the mental illness in the last month.  I haven’t had any true flare ups since late March actually.  The one main medication I am on was shown by the DNA test I took to be more effective than most for me.  It certainly has proven that.  I’m reading more again.  I had been lazy about reading for a couple weeks when my back hurt real bad.  I was watching educational videos on youtube and reading blogs instead.  But it does feel good to see things falling back into place after weeks of hard work and rehabilitation.