Seasonal Aspects of Mental Illness and My Working History With Mental Illness

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I’m adjusting nicely to the summer.  Traditionally summers have been my roughest times of year.  I would usually be more paranoid and irritable than usual this time of year.  I could usually count on at least one psychotic breakdown every summer, usually in late August or early September.  Both times I went to the mental hospital were in early September.  So there is a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia.  Having dealt with this illness for close to twenty years I have figured out that there are times of year that are worse than others.  July and August are always tough.  The holidays season can be tough unless I avoid crowds and lots of stimulation.  Winters and springs are always pleasant and productive times for me.  I do a great deal of writing and reading in the winters and springs.  Spring has always been a favorite time of year for me.

But this summer so far I’m doing well.  I think it helps that I usually spend a lot of time out of the heat and avoid stressful situations and people.  Granted this means a pretty lonely stretch of the year where I don’t socialize much in person.  Yet, I still keep in contact with family and friends via phone calls and internet.  Facebook is a large means of promotion for this blog.

As it is, I don’t have a regular job.  Haven’t for five years.  Before I decided to devote myself to this blog and being an advocate for the mentally ill who couldn’t speak for themselves, I worked a variety of jobs.  Over the years I have worked as a salesman, a teachers’ aide at a small university, a factory worker, a janitor, a loading dock employee, a fast food cook, a waiter, and a tutor.  Even though this blog doesn’t even break even, I consider it the most rewarding job I ever had.  I have gotten many dozens of comments that have stated that I am helping them or helping them understand loved ones with mental illness problems.  I have been doing this blog for over four years, which is as long as I held my longest job.  Used to be I’d get serious anxiety attacks before I went to work and even while I was at work.  Many of these would be bad enough that I would vomit before I went into work.  After years of fighting these anxiety issues, I decided that working a traditional job wasn’t in my future.  I thought I needed to change course because I was making myself miserable over minimum wage jobs and dealing with rude and unreasonable people.  I have a few horror stories from my time working in retail and fast food.  I’m sure most working in these industries have far more.  As it was, I came to the conclusion that regular work wasn’t worth it anymore.  It it wasn’t for Disability Insurance, I would either be homeless, in prison, or dead.  So it bothers me anytime someone talks about wanting to eliminate these programs.  What kind of “advanced” civilization doesn’t care about the weakest and most vulnerable among their citizens?

I did not end up on disability by my own doing or choice.  I originally went to college with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a medical research scientist.  But my problems with mental illness got so severe in college that I had to change paths and even take a semester long break.  I finally graduated with a business degree.  The reason I chose business was that I wanted to be employable as soon as I left college.  Even though I love writing and reading, I had heard horror stories about liberal arts majors working minimum wage jobs because they couldn’t find work in their fields.

It turned out that I’m grateful I didn’t succeed in sales or find a banking job like I thought I would after graduation.  I know now that I would be miserable wearing a suit and dealing with people day after day.  At least with a blog I don’t even have to leave my living room.  No shirt, no shoes, no problems I suppose in my chosen field.

In closing I’m doing well despite it being a traditionally rough time of year for me.  I think the medications changes I undertook a few weeks ago are working.  And after twenty years of mental illness, I have figured out that there are some things that can make even tough situations much more bearable.

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Being Delusional About Not Being Delusional

I am now throughly convinced I have been delusional about how not delusional I have been for the last several months.  I admit to isolating most of the time and rarely leaving my apartment.  I admit to rarely socializing with other people and tenants in my complex.  I admit to occasionally going days without showering.  But I don’t think I realized how delusional I was being about my problems.

I talked to my landlord this afternoon.  She told me that there were several tenants worried about little I was socializing and how unkempt I have been for a long time.  I have pretty much isolated and kept to myself since last summer.  I just got to where I saw no point in socializing.  In my delusion diseased mind, I was thinking most people are violent idiots who would rather curse you out and physically harm you than say hello to you.  Fortunately most of these thoughts are symptoms of my mental illness flaring up and not being treated effectively.  My fellow tenants and landlord aren’t angry at me nor do they want to see me thrown out on the street.  They are actually very worried about me.  I just didn’t realize how far I had fallen in the last year because of the delusion blinders I had due to my illness.

I have gotten to where I was scared to leave my apartment.  I have gotten to where I was scared to go to the laundry room and wash clothes.  So I have been doing most of my laundry in my bathtub for the last few months.  Let’s face it, it just doesn’t do the job like a regular wash machine.  I have gotten to where I am scared to socialize in person with anyone.  I don’t go outside to talk with  people because in my delusion wracked mind, most people were just bitter and angry all the time.  I have gotten to where I’m just scared and depressed all the time.  And I hate it.  I see my psych doctor tomorrow afternoon and I am demanding he put me on something else.  My current routine isn’t working at all.

My Journey To Being An Advocate For The Mentally Ill

My birthday is coming up in a few days.  I’ll be 37 years old this year.  That would have made me a senior citizen in the Stone Age.  Of course if I would have developed schizophrenia at most points in human history, it probably would have been a death sentence.  As it is I have found what works and what doesn’t in my life with mental illness.

I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in the autumn of 2000.  I was in the second year of my pre med studies in college.  Even though I had been having problems with depression and anxiety for a few years before, I was still able to do well in school and keep up a strong front.  I still don’t know how I did it.  But in my second year of college, it all collapsed.  I couldn’t handle stress anymore.  I was having constant panic attacks.  I would have breakdowns where I called home and yelled at my parents at least once a week.  Looking back on it, I should have gone to the mental hospital right then and there and not tried to gut out college at the same time.  As it was I withdrew from college at midterm of the spring semester and took a few months to adjust the treatments and pull myself together.  After the disaster that my second year of college was, I knew I’d never get into any med school with my grades.  So I switched over to business because, let’s face it, everything involves money and commerce.  I still thought I could be employable in the right situation after college.

During the last few years of college I became interested in economics and finance.  I applied for several jobs like financial planner, insurance sales, insurance underwriter, loan officer at a few banks, etc.  I took the obsession I previously had with science and was able to transfer it to business and economics.  It paid off to be curious for me.  I graduated in spring 2004 but, like many college seniors, I had several job interviews but no offers when I left school.  I didn’t realize just how common that was until I started talking to people over the internet a few years later.

After a few failed attempts at careers in various fields, (retail sales, academia, manufacturing), I applied for disability insurance.  This was in 2006.  I had just lost my job at the university and been forced to leave the masters’ program.  Here I was on a waiting list for disability, on a waiting list for low income housing, with no job, no confidence, and no money.  If it wasn’t for my parents help for the first half of 2006, I would have never made rent on my apartment.  But that wasn’t all for 2006.  My longtime college girlfriend and I broke up and I failed at a couple minimum wage jobs, one of which was at Goodwill.  If you can’t succeed at Goodwill, then you are really screwed up (or so I thought).  In the late summer I checked myself into the mental health hospital.  Stayed there for a week.  By this time I was at my lowest ebb.  I had no job.  My illness wasn’t allowing me to hold a job.  I had no real income.  I was living off food stamps though no mess ups of my own.  I had no idea when social security was coming through. I was on high risk insurance that was costing my parents a lot of money so I could stay on my meds.  I never could have afforded them on my own.  I came to the conclusion I would never hold a career because of my mental illness.  I came to the second conclusion that I would never marry and have a family because of my mental illness.  I was really sad and depressed during this entire time.  I really thought I’d never be happy or amount to anything ever again.  I’m glad I didn’t cross the line into becoming suicidal at this time.

Those rough years of my mid to late twenties when I came to the conclusions I would never hold meaningful employment or have a family really sucked.  But they were also when I was writing a lot, granted not as focused as I am now.  Before I got serious about my blog I wrote hundreds of poems, largely in the style of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, and I also did complete rough drafts for two novels.  The novels were nothing really special, just kind of like Jack Kerouac for Millennials.  I was working on notes for a science fiction novel at this time too.  I also read every day to try to help me find a literary voice.  I read dozens of authors, ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Ayn Rand, Chuck Philhanuak to John Grisham, Alexandre Dumas to Mark Twain, Adam Smith to Nietcheze, etc.  I tried to teach myself Spanish at the time as well, but the only Spanish I know is how to ask for directions and order simple meals.  But as my ‘traditional’ side was falling apart, I was finding other ways to find meaning in my life besides work and dating.

I started writing down my thoughts and experiences with mental illness in my late twenties.  I was submitting some of my poems to be published in literary magazines.  I got a few of them published but never made any money.  I eventually wrote a few dozen short essays about life with a mental illness.  I was reading The Federalist Papers at the time and kind of modeled the book of mental health essays on that.  I put the files on a print on demand service.  I sold a few dozen of those books, mostly to friends, family, and interested mental health facilities.  After tasting a little success with those essays, I thought they might make good blog entries.  And my first few blog entries were from that original book.  Since it’s been several years since I updated that book, I probably ought to rewrite it and repost it.  And since I now have a dozens of blog entries on the subject of living with mental illness, I definitely have new material for another edition.

I started blogging through wordpress in 2012 shortly after I left my last ‘traditional’ job.  I didn’t get much for visitors early on because I had no focus for the blog and I wasn’t posting regularly.  In early 2013 I decided to focus the blog specifically on mental illness.  My audiences have grown slowly but steadily over the last few years.  I started a Facebook page to promote the blog.  I also have a patreon account a few months ago and I already have a sponsor through there.  And I’ve also made a little money since I monetized this blog.  I’m not breaking even yet with what I spent on advertising this blog, but it’s getting closer all the time.  I recently broke 14,000 all time visitors from 100 different countries.  And this is with only four years of work, a microscopic advertising budget, a niche topic, and 50 percent of the world’s population still not online.

I’ll be 37 in a few days.  And I already had a larger reach with my writing works than I ever thought possible when I first seriously started writing in 2004.  That’s been only thirteen years.  I think I’m going to keep at this and see what I can develop with this blog and my writings over the next thirteen years.  I say all of this to point out that young people in their late teens and early twenties shouldn’t sell themselves short at all.  At age 23 I would have been content to be a loan officer at a bank or an insurance salesman.  But I know I wouldn’t have been content doing such work.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m really good at.  And let’s face it, in this day and age a person can make money doing almost anything thanks to the exposure of the internet if they put in the time and lots of effort to get noticed.  I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could as a writer thanks to the internet, especially when I started out I was just writing poetry out in notebooks.  And now after running this blog for four years and getting some audience and dozens of positive emails, I know I’m only scratching the surface of what can be done.  I never would have thought this possible when I first applied for disability insurance.  Mental illness is one of the few things that is still discriminated against with little to no protest.  I intend to be part of changing that.  I’m not going away.  The mentally ill bloggers and you tubers aren’t going away either.  We will not be silent and suffer needlessly anymore.  Consider this a declaration of war against mental illness stigma.

 

Needing To Vent

Been raining for almost a week straight in my town.  Not that I mind because it gives me an excuse to sleep in and stay home.  I’ve always been a natural night person and I don’t see that changing soon.  Unfortunately my landlord’s office hours are always in the morning so I never get to see her.  I’ve given up on ever getting my walls painted and carpet replaced.  I’ve been hearing that it was coming for over a year.  They can build skyscrapers in less than a year in China it seems.  Yet I can’t get approval for my walls to be painted and carpet replaced.  Go figure.  And people wonder why I don’t trust authority figures.

Somedays I really wonder if I am making any difference with being mentally ill or even making progress with this illness.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I’ll never get cured of schizophrenia, which would be a dream come true for me.  I’ve fought this illness for over twenty years and I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of always feeling paranoid.  I’m tired of being depressed all the time.  I’m tired of not being able to work.  I’m tired of people thinking I’m just making my problems up.  I’m angry that I’m never going to live up to my potential through no fault of my own.  It would be one thing if I fried my brains through drug abuse.  I would probably get more empathy if this illness was self inflicted. The public’s lack of understanding about mental illness and anything having to do with science is sickening.  I mean this is 2017 people, we’re supposed to be an advanced civilization.  Not advanced enough for me that’s for sure.

I can’t even really socialize anymore.  Most people seem to be in foul moods all the time or just want to talk about stupid things that have been rehashed a thousand times before.  Do people really get dumber the older they get?  I was always under the impression that older people were supposed to be wise and full of good advice.  Not so from what I’ve seen.  Most days I just don’t want to leave my apartment anymore.  I’m just tired of dealing with stupid and rude people all day.  I’m so glad I no longer work in retail customer service.  Those people take an incredible amount of abuse for no more then they are paid.

I don’t know if there is a point to this post.  I’m sure some are thinking I should “man up” and “quit whining.”  But, even I have moments of weakness at times.  I can’t be everyone’s Mr. Sunshine all the time.  And I shouldn’t have to be.  Years ago, someone with my diagnosis would be long term hospitalized and never heard from again.  Out of sight out of mind.  One of the reasons we’re seeing more and more mentally ill people in public is because of deinstitutionalization.  It’s not that the younger generations are weaker and morally inferior to previous generations.  It’s not that at all.  Modern times are not crazier than the past, they are just better documented.  I’m just tired that’s all.  I just need to vent.  And if a mentally ill person isn’t allowed to vent, then no one should.

I Enjoy Adulthood Even With Mental Illness

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I must admit, I love being an adult.  I love the freedom involved.  I love having my own money and getting to decide how I get to spend it.  I love that I don’t have to answer to authority figures I didn’t choose.  If a boss was giving me static at a job, I could always look for a different job.  If a landlord was giving me a hard time, I always had the option of moving to a different place.  I love that I can do things like vote and go to casinos.  I enjoy that I don’t have to feel guilty for expressing my opinions and having my likes and dislikes.  I like that I can read whatever I want.  I love having privacy.  I enjoy not getting yelled at for trivial things like when I was in school or living with my parents.  I like the fact that I can avoid people who give me too much static.  When you are in school, you just can’t avoid bullies or sadistic teachers.  Sure I’ve had bosses and coworkers who were jerks and whiners, but at least I had the option of finding another job if I didn’t connect with said bosses or coworkers.  Changing schools is a lot tougher.

Even though I have been living with schizophrenia since at least age seventeen, I have found that it is getting easier to work around it the older I get.  The bad periods don’t last nearly as long nor are as intense as they were in my early twenties.  In my late 30s, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to be defined by what job I have or if I have a wife and kids or not.  I am not my job.  I am not less of a human being because I am not married.  Sure I still deal with people that tell me “mental illness is fake” or that “you’re not a real man.”  But as an adult it is much easier to blow those jerks and losers off and ignore them.  You think I’m faking mental illness, then screw you.  It’s not my job to meet your standards.  It is so much easier to not be bothered by criticism as a 36 year old than when I was 21.  I just hope that the older I get, the symptoms will become even less severe and I will care even less about naysayers and idiots.

I still isolate a lot and avoid socializing with my complex mates.  But I think I’m more mentally stable because of said lack of socializing.  When I was a kid people used to tell me I was being “anti-social” and had “attitude problems” because I didn’t like going to high school sporting events and county fairs.  There really wasn’t much to do in my farming village besides school events, church activities, and county fairs.  There was only one movie theatre in a fifty mile radius from my hometown. I didn’t enjoy watching people throw balls around much as a kid.  As an adult I really don’t have to feel guilty for not watching such things.  I do watch some college football and basketball tournaments just to give myself something to talk about with other people.  Most people still don’t like discussing science and technology in casual conversations.  But I haven’t been to any sporting events in person besides minor league baseball games in almost five years.  And I don’t feel the least bit guilty or anti-social because of it.  And as an adult I have these options.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

I don’t really understand people who are nostalgic about their youths or the past.  I might be a little nostalgic about growing up if I had more friends, was bullied less, and wasn’t so much of a social misfit in my school.  I am kind of nostalgic about my college years because I knew lots of smart people, had lots of interesting conversations, could do things at the spur of the moment with no planning, could study what I felt like studying, and had the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood.  College was much more stimulating and enjoyable than grade school or high school.  Sure I never got to use my degree in a job, but I blame the schizophrenia for that completely.  And I am grateful everyday I can keep in contact with old friends through Facebook.

I love living in the here and now of May 2017.  Sure getting to this point was rough dealing with schizophrenia for almost twenty years.  Sure my physical health took a beating because my mental illness and the side effects of the psych medications.  But after twenty years of schizophrenia I have figured out how to deal with bad days and psychotic breaks.  I have also learned how to enjoy the small things of life more than many of my mentally stable friends and family.  Happiness for me is watching a sunset, or eating chicken wings at a sports bar with college friends, or seeing my niece and nephews for a few hours, or talking with my parents about history or technology, or reading internet sites like futurism.com or bloomberg.com about trends in science and current events.  I had my ups and downs with schizophrenia.  I had many breakdowns when I took a lot of grief out on my parents and friends.  Fortunately those breakdowns are getting less severe and shorter as I age.  I have had to go to the mental hospital twice. But both times I was self committed and my longest stay was one week.  I may not be able to hold a forty hour a week job, but at least I tried several different lines of work before I came to the conclusion that traditional employment wasn’t in my future.  And it’s not shameful to not hold a full time job, especially if you have a disability or find other outlets to give back to people.  I can still drive a car, I can still buy my own groceries, pick up my medications, keep appointments, and more or less live on my own even with mental illness.  Some people can’t claim that.  In short I love being an adult.  And I wouldn’t want to go back to my youth, even though I had more friends and better health in college.  Being an adult rocks.  It really does.

Problems Socializing

Been a few days since I last wrote.  But that is mainly because I really haven’t had any real ups or downs.  I’ve been quite stable for several days.  Haven’t felt any real anxiety or depression for any true length of time.  I still spend most of my time alone without much for physical interaction.  But I still interact with friends and family via phone calls and Facebook.  I don’t mind being alone as much as I used to.  It’s a routine that doesn’t cause me stress and anxiety.  I just see no need to interact with my neighbors much as I really have no interest in talking about mundane things like weather and complex gossip.  I just have no use for that kind of information I can pick up on my own within seconds.  I don’t have to rehash the same mundane nonsense over and over again.  It bores me and irritates me.  I mean, seriously, please tell me something I don’t already know.  Or better yet, tell me something that is interesting.

Naturally many people I have met over the years have thought I was aloof, arrogant, and anti social.  This is mainly because I have interests outside of my home community, sports, and politics.  It was tough growing up in an era before the internet in an isolated village.  I was annoyed at how everyone in my village thought my business was their business.  This bothered me even in grade school.  I had always heard “If you’re not up to anything bad, it shouldn’t matter who knows”.  No.  Most people I knew and know today are really judgmental of anyone outside of the accepted norm.  I am outside of the norm on just about everything.  Playing football in high school was probably the only thing I did growing up that many people would have thought normal.  No I don’t like mindless chit chat.  No I don’t like chasing women.  No I don’t like most of what is on tv.  There’s a lot of things I like that most people don’t care at all about.  I like discussing the possibilities of future science and technology.  I like discussing history.  I like discussing philosophy.  I like discussing classical literature.  I like writing.  I like reading.  It seems that most people I know haven’t read a book since high school.  And if any of likes or dislikes makes me appear as an elitist intellectual snob, than so be it.  We need more people who try to think rather than just through life sub conscious.

None of these social problems are made easier by having schizophrenia.  But at least having mental illness and problems socializing has taught me who is and who isn’t trustworthy.  I may not have lots of social contacts, but I do have some amazing family and friends.  And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

Making and Losing Friends and Mental Illness

Keeping friends over the years while having schizophrenia has always been tough.  Even before I became mentally ill I had a hard time making friends.  But I am convinced that much of this was probably due to the environment I grew up in.  Most people in my hometown were farmers or cowboys.  I never did want to farm and the cowboy life never appealed to me.  So I guess by the time I went to college I was already behind my peers in terms of social skills.  Having schizophrenia hurt my social skills in that the illness could make me standoffish and not understanding normal people humor and activities.  I have always preferred reading and science pursuits over talking about sports, campus gossip, or whatever tv shows were trendy that season.  I am still this way.

As a result of my mental illness and the environment I grew up in, I never really did learn how to make friends easily.  I never did have normal interests so most of the friends I did make wouldn’t be considered normal either.  My best friend from college is a high school history teacher who is an avid sports fan.  He is also an avid reader of history, philosophy, economics, and classic literature.  Even though we haven’t been in college for over a dozen years, I still talk to him about once a week.  It’s not uncommon for our conversations to involve talking about baseball statistics, Austrian economics, medieval battle tactics, and the philosophy of Nietchze all in the same phone call.  He has never made an issue of me having a mental illness or not having traditional employment.  I don’t know if he regularly reads my blogs but he does think I’m doing a good thing with these writings.  He’s even suggested that it’s possible that if I keep writing, some big online blog service like Huffington Post or Breitbart might hire me.  A man can dream, right?  In short, friends like this don’t come along everyday and are worth holding onto.  My best friend from high school, she’s pretty much the same way.  Both of these people I may not get to see very often but I do keep in contact with.

Other people who I have friended over the years haven’t turned out so well.  I had one friend that I’ve been having a falling out with for months over aspects of my mental illness.  This former friend doesn’t seem to respect the fact that I don’t want to date.  I’ve dated before while working through a mental illness.  It sucks.  Dating is supposed to be enjoyable.  What I went through wasn’t.  As far as love goes, that’s what family is for.  As far as sex goes, well I’m not a dog in that I can’t live without sex.  Surprise, surprise; there are men who aren’t interested in having sex all the time.  And the older I get the less interest I have in sex.

This person also doesn’t respect the fact that I don’t hold a regular job.  First of all, when I did work a regular job, there were days I would have panic attacks while on the job and even before I went to work.  Many days these panic attacks were so bad I would vomit from the anxiety.  I would also get physically ill from the stress and anxiety I would feel at work with schizophrenia.  And dealing with office politics, well that was super stressful in itself.  In short, I never want to hold a regular job again considering all the problems it caused me.  I’ll go to prison before I go back to work.

So for any person to even infer that I’m wasting my life not being at some minimum wage drudgery that’s going to get automated in a few years anyway, well that’s not the kind of respect friends show for each other.  I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t respect me or my decisions.  And I especially can’t respect anyone who thinks I’m not “doing my part” or not “being a productive member of society” just because I don’t hold some nonsense job that a machine can do hundreds of times better.  Let the machines have all the damned jobs as far as I’m concerned.  I spent most of my life listening to people gripe and moan about how much they hated their jobs, as if it was an honor to hate your job, hate your boss, hate your coworkers, and hate your customers.  Any wonder why millions of American jobs got outsourced overseas?  After spending years fighting a mental illness and years trying to work in spite a mental illness, I don’t want to go back into the toxic work environment.  It wrecks havoc on my mental stability.  And if anyone can’t respect my decision, then screw them.  I don’t want people like that in my life.