Take biology and psychology that developed over many thousands of years in the Stone Age, throw in Bronze Age spirituality and religions, mix in legal, finance, and government institutions developed in the Renaissance, toss in jobs, consumerism, work ethic, and education developed in the Industrial Revolution, add mass media and instant communications of the early 21st century, and possibly add machine automation that will make the work force far smaller and resources far easier to get as icing on the cake. Stand back and watch mayhem and chaos ensue or work toward bringing about the Star Trek future.
Spending Thanksgiving week by myself. I had my celebration a week ago as kind of a going away party for my parents. I guess I don’t mind spending the week alone as I’ve spent much of my adult life alone. I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 when I graduated college. I would actually feel kind of strange having to share a roof and four walls with someone, especially if that someone and I got on each others nerves.
This isn’t the first major holiday I spent alone. Several years ago I stayed home when my parents were hosting it because I felt a major breakdown coming on. I wasn’t going to have a break in front of my niece and nephews, especially when they were still too young to go to school. It was a sad deal in that it was also my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving. He was diagnosed with cancer a few days later and died a couple months after. I was fortunate to been able to host the last couple Christmas celebrations with my parents at my apartment. Not sure what I’m doing this year as all my family is now living out of state. But I have a few weeks to figure that out. It could be I get snowed in and not able to go anywhere. This time a year the weather is always a factor where I live.
Starting to sleep less again. But I’m not staying up all night either. I usually go to sleep around 10pm and am up usually around 2 am. I prattle around for a couple hours and then go back to sleep for another couple hours. I’m usually awake for good by 8:30 am. I have been feeling quite stable lately too. I’ve now gone a full year without a major breakdown. First time I can claim that ever since I was in high school.
In spite feeling better overall, I really have no desire to go anywhere or socialize much. I’m content to pretty much stay at home much of the time. Home is where I feel comfortable and accepted, even if I am alone. I don’t like socializing in person much anymore. I’m almost scared of other people now, especially people I don’t know. Maybe it’s a new aspect of my mental illness. I don’t have the volatile mood swings but just have no motivation to see anyone or try anything new.
Perhaps I really am depressed and not wanting to go anywhere or see anyone is the way it’s being manifest. I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of despondency or sadness, but I probably do have both. I feel no need to socialize because, in my diseased mind, I already know the outcome of said socializing: We will talk about dumb and mundane things and not much will be accomplished from the meeting. I guess I’m used to not much being accomplished. I’m used to people outside of family not coming through on what they say they’ll deliver. It’s like I expect things to not work anymore. I’m probably suffering from apathy too. I’m just too tired to fight against it anymore. I’m used to things not working like they should. I’ve seen it my entire life I guess. That’s one of the reasons I don’t understand the average person’s obsession with politics or working; people talk all the time yet nothing really changes and certainly not for the better.
I would almost swear that people are intentionally screwing up and doing what they know won’t work. I can’t believe that people are so stupid as to do what they know won’t work over and over and yet be duped by every charlatan and con artist who comes along offering the same tripe with different packaging and names. I guess that’s why I don’t socialize anymore. I’ve seen it all before and I’ve heard it all before. But nothing changes for the better. The only real positive changes I’ve seen, at least in my life time, have come via science, technology advances, and humanitarian efforts. Yet no one wants to talk about these. But it is science, tech, and humanitarians that are making up for the gridlock in politics and the loss of trust in education, law, and religion. I guess that people don’t pay attention to what really makes a positive difference.
For generations we have heard old men on their death beds lamenting how they spent too much time at work and not enough time with their spouses and children or grandchildren. Maybe it’s finally starting to get through to the younger workers who seek a work life balance more than my generation or my parents and grandparents did. I think I’ll say something like “Too bad I didn’t get the corner office or the company car when I was working” or “Why did I take the day off to take my nephews to the museum? There was money to be made, dang it” just to break up the somber mood and my way of saying kiss off the old style Puritan work ethic that seems to believe that those who don’t work themselves into an early grave are going to hell.
I don’t regret not having a regular job anymore. Most people I know who got rich didn’t do so by working forty hours a week for someone else. They got that way by working for themselves and starting their own businesses. But even as rich as some people I knew were, I still didn’t see them take with them to the afterlife. Even the Pharaohs had their graves robbed over the centuries. Get a large pile of gold and jewels only to have marauders run off with it or have it collect dust in some museum half a world away thousands of years later. Hard work may have never killed anyone, but neither did enjoying the small things of life that money, power, and prestige can’t acquire.
Optimism and schizophrenia are two things that normally wouldn’t go together. Few who suffer from this mental illness would tell anyone that their hallucinations and delusional thoughts are conducive to optimism. Most of my personal hallucinations are voices telling me all the things I’m doing wrong or how I’m angering the people in my life. Fortunately for me my hallucinations aren’t usually loud or overbearing. They are often whispers or low volume, much like the play by play commentary of a ballgame on television. My hallucinations have never told me to hurt anyone or myself. So for that alone I can be optimistic that my schizophrenia is manageable. It does cause me irritation and anxiety that the voices are almost always there. But, in my case, the paranoia has to be the worst.
I have had issues with paranoia even before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I didn’t keep journals or do any writing on my own when I was growing up because I saw my brother reading the journal I kept one summer while in junior high. I was afraid to record my thoughts as I didn’t have a lock on my bedroom door and my parents often entered my bedroom when I wasn’t there. Once when I was in junior high I lost over $60 in birthday money. For years I was convinced my brother stole it. I never confronted him about it because I was paranoid the problems it would cause would be even worse than suffering in silence. I was paranoid enough to believe my parents wouldn’t take my side in the argument and I still wouldn’t get my money back. To this day I never found that money nor have I ever confronted my brother to see if he took that money. I don’t know if he did or not and probably doesn’t remember it anyway. My paranoias involve fearing people are going through my trash, people are listening in on my phone conversations, that I’m being watched every time I step out in public, etc.
I could have worse delusions. I met some schizophrenic when I was a guest speaker at the state mental hospital that was convinced people were trying to poison his food. I met another mentally ill man one time when I was in hospital that was convinced he was going to prison for a minor offense and wanted to hang himself. He was on suicide watch and that was scary seeing someone that distressed. I have met people who had great careers and families and lost them both once their mental illness took full effect later in life than mine started. In my case my problems started in my late teens and for years I was under the delusion that I would overcome my illness and still go on to have the career and family I had dreamed about since I was five years old.
I realized I was having problems that weren’t going away on their own when I was a junior in high school. I didn’t think much of my problems at first because most teenagers I knew were often moody and mean. It was when it was constant and interfering with my school work and activities that I decided to self medicate. I didn’t turn to marijuana or alcohol, I turned to herbal remedies. A friend of mine who had a rather unhealthy distrust of modern medicine recommend I try things like St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, multivitamins, and fish oil pills. I try numerous combinations of these for two years with no noticeable effect. Non modern medicines may work for some cases but my case wasn’t one of those. I may have been delusional enough to believe I could treat my mysterious problems on my own. But I have to be optimistic that I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that modern medicine was ineffective and some elaborate conspiracy. Some people I know are delusional enough to believe that even without schizophrenia.
Some people I met were religious people who believed that I needed to pray more and be more faithful to God. I was already the most knowledgeable student in my Sunday school classes since I was four years old. I read the Bible almost daily to where I had read the entire book at least a few times. I was more faithful to the teachings of the Bible than most people three to five times my age as a teenager. For a short while in junior high I even thought about the ministry as a career. But none of the prayers eased my anguish or calmed my delusions and fears. Even though I went to a Christian college I was attending church maybe only two to three times a month. I got to where I was aggravated watching people I knew who didn’t take religion as seriously as I did just seemingly coast through college and life. I was thinking, ‘Alright God, what are they doing that I’m not.’
Finally a couple years after college I stopped going to church entirely. It wasn’t because I was mad at any one person, but because it no longer made sense to invest that much into something that had no results. None of the prayers or Bible studies did anything to alleviate my delusions or allow me to cope with my paranoias. It just got to where it seemed senseless, unproductive, and even delusional. I don’t know if God exits or not. But I do know if the only thing keeping someone from hurting and abusing others is fearing God, than that person is indeed a sorry excuse for a human being. I do find it just lucky that of all the thousands of beliefs that existed all over the world and throughout history that I happened to be born into the one that was most approved by God. If I was born in India I would have been a devout Hindu. If I was born in ancient Egypt, I would have been all for Osiris and Horus and regarded the Pharaoh as a god. So it just gradually came to me the idea of burning in hell for all eternity just for the crime of being born into the wrong religion, wrong time, and wrong culture was delusional. Most of my friends won’t agree with me but let them. I won’t convince them that if there is a God that God is indifferent (that’s what the evidence I’ve seen so far convinces me). And they won’t convince me that God will send someone to hell for losing the guessing game of picking the right religion.
As far as delusional thought goes, I am open to the possibility I could be wrong on anything. I never got the memo that said I had to form my philosophy on life by my early twenties. I am also not delusional enough to defend an idea I have that is being proven wrong. Even though I am schizophrenic I have to be thankful that I don’t have the delusions of defending an idea I know to be off base.
I’m going off my usual mental illness topics for this post. Something like what I’m currently writing has been weighing on me for quite some time. Yet it finally crystalized into actual thoughts within the last twenty four hours before this writing with the death of one of my best friends. This man died in his early 80s and was a retired Lutheran minister. Pastor Vern, as this man was known to everyone living in my apartment complex, was probably the wisest, wittiest, well read, and compassionate individual I met in my entire life. I knew him for eight years but I don’t believe I ever heard him say anything derogative or hurtful about anyone. I know I can’t go even eight days without at least thinking something hurtful directed at others, but hopefully most of this is due to the aspects of my illness.
Being a career Lutheran minister, Pastor Vern no doubt had his views on religion and God. Yet he was not as caught up in rituals, creeds, and beliefs when talking with me as he was on the basic principles of Christianity and other religious beliefs. Those core beliefs, the ones he lived by everyday were simply 1) Love God, 2) Care About Others, and 3) Respect Yourself. I suppose if one were to substitute or supplement the world ‘God’ with nature or the earth, even the most convinced atheists would be hard pressed to deny that loving nature, caring about others, and respecting yourself are good principles to attempt to live by.
Pastor Vern, being one with a wide array of interests and knowledge, was a perfect friend for someone like myself. He and I could easily talk about history, classical literature, philosophy, among numerous other topics for quite a long time. We would usually be sitting outside, him smoking his pipe, and just discuss whatever happened to come up regardless of whether it had any logical order or direction or not. Some of our neighbors who listened to our conversations no doubt thought us a little odd for rarely discussing such mundane things as weather, current events, or gossiping about others. For myself and Pastor Vern, hardly any topic was not subject matter to be discussed. We had an unspoken agreement that no matter how much we disagreed on any one topic, we would never become angry or speak harshly to each other. I suppose this falls under the care about others and respect yourself principles.
He and I have both studied the basic teachings and principles of most religions with significant followings. We both came to the conclusion that in spite of the differing rituals, social practices and customs, sets of creeds and beliefs, etc. that one thing they all believed were the ideas that a person would be better off in their own lives and dealings with others if the basics of ‘Loving God (or your creator/giver of life/etc.)’, ‘Caring About Other People and Living Things’, and ‘Respecting Yourself’ were principles that a person attempted to live by.
Yes, these are simple principles to the point that any six year old child can grasp these are important. Sadly, most of us as adults severely complicate these and often don’t live by these ideas at all. How much less strife and division would we have in our work places and places of business if managers, workers, and customers alike lived by even the caring about others and respecting ourselves? How much less war, famine, disease, poverty would we have if even individuals, let alone the governments of the world, operated with these guides? How much less needless destruction of our most valuable forests, farmlands, waters and wasting of finite natural resources would we have if we lived by even the ‘Love God/Nature/Earth’ idea? How much less conflict and needless grief would we have in our personal lives if we cared about others and respected ourselves more?
I apologize for the mini rant in the previous paragraph. I wrote that to try to apply to our own lives the principles that my recently deceased friend Pastor Vern lived by every day. These are principles I attempt to live by though often inconsistently. In closing I’m glad to have had a friend like Pastor Vern for the eight years I knew him. I wish that everyone could attempt to live by such principles, or at least become acquainted with those who do.